Political insiders float Sen. Collins as possible successor to departing homeland security secretary

Sen. Susan Collins with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in this 2013 file photo.
Pete Souza | White House
Sen. Susan Collins with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in this 2013 file photo.
Posted July 12, 2013, at 7:10 p.m.
Last modified July 12, 2013, at 9:14 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s resignation Friday spurred speculation among political bloggers and Beltway insiders that Maine Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins might be a potential replacement.

Collins’ lengthy tenure on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, including as chairwoman from 2005 to 2007, prompted discussion that the Obama administration might consider her for the post.

As chairwoman of the committee, Collins wrote the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act that made sweeping changes to the national intelligence system in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As ranking minority member of the committee during her final year on the panel, she released a report that blistered the State Department for security failures that contributed to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.

Within hours after Napolitano announced her resignation Friday, Daily Kos had posted a blog titled “ME-Sen.: Could Susan Collins Be The Next Homeland Security Secretary?”

In a Politico blog post about possible successors to Napolitano, Virginia U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat, suggested that Collins might be a good choice.

“I really think she is a thoughtful voice and would be a real quality addition,” Connolly told Politico. “You want to make sure that your Cabinet has some voices from the other party.”

“Given Senator Collins’ extensive experience on Homeland Security issues, it’s not surprising that some might speculate that the President would consider her for this position. However, Senator Collins is very happy representing the people of Maine in the U.S. Senate,” said Kevin Kelley, spokesman for Collins.

If Collins did succeed Napolitano, she would not be the first Republican elected official from Maine to serve in the Cabinet of a Democratic president. William Cohen, Maine’s former 2nd District U.S. representative and U.S. senator, served as secretary of defense during President Bill Clinton’s second term in the White House.

Collins’ name did not appear on a list of possible homeland security secretary candidates posted Friday by The Fix, a Washington Post political blog.

Collins is up for re-election in 2014. She is considered one of the GOP’s strongest Senate incumbents, a fact that makes Democrats yearn for a repeat of 2012, when Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s unexpected resignation opened a Senate seat that was considered a lock for the GOP. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, easily won the seat, contributing to a disappointing election year for Republicans and helping Democrats increase their majority in the Senate.

Collins’ re-election in a state that Obama won in 2012 is seen as a key to Republican hopes to win control of the Senate in 2014, making it likely that the GOP would be cool to the idea of her vacating her seat for a position in the Obama administration.

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