PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine said Wednesday she's running for the U.S. Senate to help change the status quo in Washington, but she'll face long odds if she wins the Democratic nomination and runs against incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
Shenna Bellows, 38, formally launched her campaign for the seat held by Collins with a kickoff breakfast in Ellsworth followed by events in Portland, Lewiston and Eliot. She's the only declared candidate.
Speaking to a group of supporters at the Rising Tide Brewing Co. in Portland, Bellows said the nation needs more "courage and honesty" in Washington. In the past 20 years, she said, the country's seen "a constitutional crisis, an economic crisis and an environmental crisis that threaten our country's future."
This month's federal government shutdown underscores the problems in Congress, she said.
"When Congress acts merely to kick the can down the road three months, so that we will continue to lurch from one economic crisis to another, something is deeply wrong in Washington," she said.
Bellows spoke about her upbringing in the eastern Maine town of Hancock, the daughter of a stay-at-home mom and a carpenter dad. Until her resignation last month, she was executive director of the ACLU of Maine for eight years, working to oppose government surveillance of U.S. citizens and the federal Real ID law and to support same-day voter registration and same-sex marriage.
If elected, she said she would work to repeal the Patriot Act and Real ID, stop the National Security Administration's electronic spying program and place limits on the use of drones. She said the government needs to stop spending billions of dollars on surveillance and start investing that money on entrepreneurs.
Bellows said she has raised more than $100,000 in two weeks and plans to visit all 16 counties in the next five days.
Bellows will have her work cut out for her. Collins, now in her third term, is in the enviable position of being extremely popular and having a national profile that's never been more positive, said Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine at Orono.
"The chances of her beating Susan Collins are virtually nil," Brewer said. "I would go even further and say the chances of anybody out there on the (political) radar screen beating Susan Collins is virtually nil."
Collins was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but she said earlier this year that only catastrophic illness could prevent her from running for re-election.
"Election Day is more than a year away, and Sen. Collins has more than a full-time job to do," said her spokesman, Kevin Kelley. "She believes that she can best serve the people of Maine by continuing to work hard for them each and every day."