In this March 16, 2021, file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, takes the escalator at the Capitol in Washington. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Republican Party overwhelmingly voted on Saturday to reject a censure of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins after outcry from conservatives over her vote to convict former President Donald Trump on an impeachment charge.

The 41-19 vote of the party’s state committee ended nearly a month and a half of behind-the-scenes wrangling over whether to denounce the moderate fifth-term senator, who won reelection in a heavily nationalized 2020 race. Collins is the lone Republican serving in high office in Maine and the last one in federal office in New England.

Collins was one of seven Republicans to vote to convict Trump in February on a Democratic impeachment charge related to the former president’s role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, where five people died after Trump supporters stormed the building. She called it “the culmination of a steady stream of provocations by President Trump” in a floor speech.

Many conservatives were immediately incensed by the vote, with county party chairs reporting a deluge of communications calling for the party to denounce Collins. Maine Republican Party Chair Demi Kouzounas noted the uproar on the day of the vote in an email to state committee members and prepared them for a meeting to discuss the vote.

The slow process resulted in a censure signed by 19 members that was made public this week, but the vote showed a wider group of Republicans was unwilling to press the matter. In a statement, Collins said it was “a testament to the Republican Party’s ‘big tent’ philosophy that respects different views but unites around core principles.”

Collins, a Caribou native, was censured this week by Republicans in Aroostook County over the vote. It was the only fallout over the vote for the senator to date after Republicans in Kennebec County voted down a similar measure last month. Other Republicans who opposed the president during impeachment proceedings, including Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, were censured by their state parties.

The Maine GOP also took a 32-26 vote on Saturday against censuring former Maine Senate President Kevin Raye and former state Sen. Roger Katz, two moderates who wrote a Bangor Daily News Op-Ed endorsing President Joe Biden, a Democrat, over Trump in the 2020 election.

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...