Derek Levasseur, left, poses with Republican gubernatorial nominee Shawn Moody at a parade in 2018. Levasseur is quitting a longshot 2020 primary bid against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. Credit: Contributed

AUGUSTA, Maine — The longshot Republican primary challenger to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has quit the 2020 race, according to the Sun Journal, leaving the four-term senator alone in the nominating race for a fifth term in her nationally targeted seat.

Derek Levasseur, a conservative activist and former police officer from Fairfield, told the newspaper that he was quitting the race amid pressure from top Republicans including former Gov. Paul LePage, who has endorsed Collins after sharply criticizing her in the past.

Levasseur kicked off his race in late March promising to support President Donald Trump’s “America First policies” after Collins, a moderate Republican, joined 11 other members of her party in the Senate to oppose the president’s emergency declaration at the southern border.

His campaign never gained traction, raising only $7,000 by June as party support coalesced behind Collins. Levasseur often aired grievances against Republicans on social media, saying Maine GOP Chair Demi Kouzounas told him it would be “political suicide” to join the race and telling the Sun Journal that LePage said “I’m coming after you” if he didn’t quit.

Levasseur, who didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday, told the Sun Journal the race has “taken a toll on my family and it’s taken a toll on me.”

Collins is expected to run for a fifth term. A formal announcement is likely later this year. She is gearing up for a historic campaign, raising more money than ever as national Democrats target her seat after her October vote for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Five Democrats are running against her in 2020, including House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport, Hallowell lobbyist Betsy Sweet, Saco lawyer Bre Kidman, Jonathan Tracey, a retired Air Force major general from Oxford, and travel agent Michael Bunker of Bangor.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...