Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, returns to the chamber Saturday as the Senate voted to consider hearing from witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Maine Republican Party could vote by month’s end to censure U.S. Sen. Susan Collins over her Saturday vote to convict former President Donald Trump of a Democratic impeachment charge, a move that infuriated many in the conservative grassroots.

The state party issued no statement after the senator’s vote, but Maine GOP Chair Demi Kouzounas told party members in a Saturday email that “many of you are upset after what happened today as are we” and “to be prepared for an emergency state committee meeting in the near future” to discuss the Collins matter.

Collins’ vote irked conservatives who copied reporters on an email string over the weekend calling for a censure or some other form of discipline. Other Republicans who voted with the Maine senator have already faced rebukes. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana was quickly censured by his state party and Richard Burr of North Carolina faces a similar vote on Monday. Trump was acquitted despite the votes of all Democrats and seven Republicans to convict him.

County Republican chairs were set to discuss the matter at a meeting on Monday. A special state committee meeting can be held with 10 days’ notice with the support of 17 state committee members representing six or more counties. Kennebec County Republican Committee Chair Helen Tutwiler said Monday that the party had already received the needed signatures, though it was not clear if any formal language critical of Collins has been drafted.

Collins discussed the trial with a group of county Republican chairs on a call last Tuesday, said Katrina Smith, the Waldo County chair. The senator did not say how she would vote and mostly listened to county Republicans’ arguments, Smith said. She told Collins that local party members were “100 percent against impeachment.”

“Based on the responses that I got in Waldo County [after the vote] and the people on my mailing list, I think that the people themselves are demanding that something be done to send a message,” Smith said.

A Collins spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Tutwiler said the larger party meeting during which a censure could be discussed is likely to happen by the end of the month.

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Collins, who was reelected in 2020, had a complex relationship with Trump and his divisive era in American politics. The moderate angered conservatives with her deciding 2017 vote against a Republican bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but the base rallied to her defense after Democrats challenged her over her vote for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

She criticized the former president in a 16-minute floor speech explaining her vote on Saturday, saying the riot that killed five people “was the culmination of a steady stream of provocations by President Trump.”

“My vote in this trial stems from my own duty to defend the Constitution of the United States,” she said. “The abuse of power and betrayal of his oath by President Trump meet the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Former Gov. Paul LePage, the grassroots standard-bearer here, did not comment after Collins’ vote on Saturday. He endorsed Collins and worked on her behalf during the 2020 campaign despite saying her 2016 move to disavow Trump “cooked her goose” among Republicans.

In an interview with WVOM on Monday, former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican possibly eyeing another bid for office, criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, for trying to “have his cake and eat it too” with his vote to acquit followed by a floor speech lambasting Trump for his role in the riot. Poliquin mostly spared Collins, however.

“She looked at the evidence and made her decision,” he said. “I would have made a different decision.”

Michael Shepherd

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...