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Environmental Group Endorses Susan Collins Over Progressive Democratic Challenger

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SUSAN COLLINS
An environmental group endorsed Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in her race against Democrat Shenna Bellows. (Robert F. Bukaty) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- A leading environmental group endorsed Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Monday over her progressive Democratic opponent, Shenna Bellows.

In a press release, the League of Conservation Voters praised Collins' commitment to environmental issues.

“Senator Susan Collins is committed to finding bipartisan solutions that will safeguard our environment and combat climate change while promoting clean energy, which will create good paying jobs and reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels,” said LCV Action Fund President Gene Karpinski in the release. “She is always fighting for the people of Maine by supporting common sense policies that promote the state’s outdoor heritage and help protect our air, water and public health.”

Collins has stood out from her Republican colleagues when it comes to environmental issues. She has long championed cuts in carbon emissions, and last year was the only Republican to vote against an amendment that would have prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from setting carbon rules.

But Bellows, who was previously executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Maine, has made environmental issues a central part of her campaign. In a statement released Monday, she chided LCV for propping up a "Washington Republican" and ignoring Collins' mixed record. Collins scored the highest of any GOP senator on the LCV's National Environmental Scorecard, which ranks lawmakers on their voting record with regard to environmental legislation, but her score of 67 percent amounts only to a D.

"Protecting the status quo won't protect the environment for the next generation. I've been a consistent voice for more renewable energy, stronger clean air and water standards and an end to the Keystone XL Pipeline project, and I'll proudly stack my environmental values against Mitch McConnell, Susan Collins and any other Washington Republican," Bellows said.

The race has created friction among environmental groups in Maine. Some are happy with Collins because they believe bipartisanship is key to moving climate-change legislation forward. Others feel that endorsing Collins means "honoring 'environment-lite'," and they believe her mixed record -- for example, her support of the Keystone XL pipeline -- undermines her leadership.

The LCV endorsement deals another blow to Bellows' uphill battle to defeat Collins. The senator leads Bellows by 55 percent in recent polls, and the three-term incumbent has already raised five times as much money as her challenger.

Last week, Collins also received the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, which cited her dogged support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The endorsement came before Collins had publicly come out in support of marriage equality (she did so a few hours after the HRC announcement), and in spite of Bellows' vocal support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

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