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Robert S. Tyrer, a former resident of Bangor, is co-president of The Cohen Group in Washington, D.C.
I have been involved with Maine life and politics since 1975 when I first started working for then-U.S. Rep. Bill Cohen. I worked with him for all his 18 years in the U.S. Senate, and served as chief of staff at the Pentagon when he was secretary of defense. I lived in Bangor for three years while working at the Federal Building, and also lived in South Portland, Standish and Presque Isle and graduated from the University of Maine.
I mention this personal history in the hopes that it gives me credibility to comment on the Maine U.S. Senate race.
I have seen first-hand that being a truly effective U.S. senator is a tough, demanding daily grind. Each day is a struggle with the federal bureaucracy and with your fellow senators, each of whom wants favorable treatment for their states. To do it well takes experience, knowledge and tenacity. It is not glamorous or fun. It is hard and important work, and millions of dollars and thousands of Maine jobs are at stake.
Susan Collins has been honing her craft as a senator for 24 years. She is very, very good at her job. Maine benefits each day in countless ways from her service, especially on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. No matter which party controls the Senate next year, Collins is in line to either be chair or ranking minority member of that committee, both of which are positions of immense influence that will be helpful to Maine.
It would take any first-term senator many years to develop any measurable influence or impact, and Maine cannot afford that loss of influence in the face of the very serious crises of a raging pandemic and a crippled economy we are facing right now.
And it is precisely because of these crises that Maine needs its maximum influence. Maine has just four members in its congressional delegation. (New York has 28. California has 55.) Protecting Maine’s interests must take priority over everything else.
Having served for four years as the chief of staff at the Pentagon, I saw first-hand how little impact junior senators and House members had. They were easily and regularly dismissed. That has not been and will never be the case with Collins, because of her seniority and also the dogged persistence for which she is universally known — executive branch officials know she will never lose interest in an issue once she raises it.
In my view, it would be complete madness for Maine voters to replace Susan Collins with any first-term senator.
If you are unhappy with Donald Trump, vote for Joe Biden. Many thousands of Maine people will be voting for Biden and Collins. Don’t punish Maine by voting against Collins because you don’t like Trump.
Regarding Sara Gideon, her government experience has been limited to serving on the Freeport Town Council and in the Maine House and as its speaker, very part-time jobs, which are not remotely comparable to the knowledge and expertise and experience that Collins has developed over the years.
In the Senate, seniority matters a great deal and equates to real influence. Collins is currently 12th (out of 100) in Senate seniority and will move up after this election. Gideon would start as the most junior senator, and it would take her years if not decades to have any meaningful influence.
In a race for an open Senate seat where the eventual winner would be serving a first term either way, Gideon would certainly be a plausible candidate.
But Maine already has a seasoned, trusted and proven senator whose experience and influence benefits the state each day in a hundred different ways. Collins embodies independence, intelligence and integrity. I respectfully urge Maine voters to think carefully about the cost to the state of losing such a public servant. In my view, it would truly be a grave and unnecessary error.