Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren walks off stage after speaking at the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. Credit: Charlie Neibergall | AP

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the first Democratic presidential candidate to tease a Maine campaign on Tuesday, with a key staffer putting it among a handful of targeted states and citing the high-profile 2020 U.S. Senate race as a main reason.

That pledge came in a Tuesday email to supporters from Roger Lau, Warren’s campaign manager, which said the campaign would be hiring staff throughout the fall in Maine and other states with March nominating races.

Lau said the campaign is “targeting our resources” to help Democrats in other competitive races including one against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is a top target for national Democrats, saying the election is “about more than just beating” President Donald Trump.

“If we want to make big, structural change, we need to make sure Democrats control the U.S. House and Senate and win important gubernatorial and state legislative races across the country,” Lau said.

A Warren spokesman did not elaborate on when the campaign planned to hire in Maine or the specifics of how those plans would be integrated with the Senate race, but it amounted to the first Democratic campaign pledge to hire staffers here ahead of the March 3 primary.

The Massachusetts senator has had a strong September in the presidential race. She has overtaken Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the second-place slot among Democrats in national polling averages compiled by RealClearPolitics and leads former Vice President Joe Biden, the national front-runner for the nomination, in the early caucus state of Iowa.

Campaigns are now more focused there and in other early-voting states that include Maine’s neighboring state of New Hampshire. Warren didn’t follow other candidates across the state line when Maine got its first burst of presidential activity in August.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Sanders held rallies within two weeks of each other at Portland’s State Theatre in August and September, respectively, while New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker held a Portland event this month. Author Marianne Williamson visited Eliot in July.

The Republican National Committee has been organizing for months in Maine to bolster Trump’s re-election campaign. It will be largely geared toward winning the more conservative 2nd Congressional District, which delivered Trump one of Maine’s four electors in 2016.

Nina McLaughlin, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, said the party has had “a permanent ground game” in Maine since 2016 and “try as they may, Democrats can’t compete with our grassroots efforts.”

It would be rare for a senator to campaign directly against a colleague, but Warren would not be the first Democratic presidential hopeful to weigh in on Collins’ race. Buttigieg implored his Portland crowd to back Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon in her challenge against Collins.

Gideon is backed by national Democrats’ campaign arm, but she faces a five-way primary against lobbyist Betsy Sweet, lawyer Bre Kidman, retired Air Force major general Jonathan Tracey and travel agent Michael Bunker.

“Add this to the already long list of out-of-state interests trying to tell Mainers how to vote,” said Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for the Collins campaign of Warren’s Tuesday missive.

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...