U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows marked the completion of her 350-mile campaign walk on Tuesday with events in Kittery and Portland, where she continued to portray herself as the best candidate to represent working-class Mainers.
Bellows, a Democrat who is challenging Republican Sen. Susan Collins, began her walk in Houlton on July 20 and completed the trek on-schedule in Kittery on Tuesday morning.
“Rest assured this isn’t the end, this is the beginning,” Bellows said during a later rally in Portland’s Monument Square attended by 100 to 150 supporters. “This is the beginning of a conversation that Maine needs to have about the future of our state and our country.”
The walk was modeled after a 600-miler across Maine’s 2nd Congressional District by former Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cohen during his first campaign in 1972. Several other Maine candidates from both major parties have undertaken similar campaign walks.
Bellows is a first-time political candidate who established a name for herself in Maine political circles during her eight years as the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. Yet despite her popularity among progressives and some libertarian voters, she faces an uphill climb as she tries to unseat Collins, a three-term incumbent with strong cross-party support in the past.
In her remarks Tuesday and throughout her walk, Bellows tried to portray Collins as out-of-synch with working-class Mainers on issues such as a $10.10 minimum wage, student loan reform, free trade pacts and President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Bellows also repeatedly linked Collins to Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who Collins has endorsed.
“The working class people of Maine deserve real representation,” Bellows said.
Collins campaign spokesman Lance Dutson responded that, at the end of the day, the question come down to who will better represent Maine interests in Washington. Dutson said Collins’ popularity among voters shows that she has delivered for Mainers during the past 18 years.
“Senator Collins continues to enjoy widespread support, and her approval rating is very high among Republicans, Democrats and independents,” Dutson said. “The people of Maine continue to be very comfortable with Senator Collins and are very supportive of her for another term.”
The Collins campaign also unveiled a new ad on the same day that Bellows was completing her walk.
The ad features a Turner woman, Carol Watkins, who credits Collins with resolving a paperwork problem that caused her to lose veterans’ benefits payments after the death of her husband, a disabled veteran. Without her widow’s benefits, Watkins said she might have lost her house.
“She fought for me and now I am going to be fine,” she said.
Meanwhile, the political battle over labor union endorsements continued on Tuesday.
Bellows picked up the endorsement of the Metal Trades Council, the largest union at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery. The Bellows campaign touted the union endorsement in an apparent response to the Collins campaign’s strategy to repeatedly stress that the Republican had earned the endorsement of all four labor unions at Maine’s other major shipyard, privately owned Bath Iron Works.