Susan Collins’ Democratic Senate Challenger May Be ACLU’s Shenna Bellows

Shenna Bellows, currently the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, is likely to announce soon she will be running for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination and challenge Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins, according to multiple Democratic sources.

Bellows has been active in Maine politics for some time, lending her voice to efforts to legalize gay marriage and fight against voter ID requirement efforts. She’s also lobbied at the State House on any number of civil liberties measures in her capacity as leader of the ACLU of Maine, a post she’s held since 2005.

She did not immediately return calls for comment, but multiple sources said she was preparing to leave her day job to launch a bid in the coming weeks.

Bellows, who grew up in Hancock, currently lives in Manchester. She graduated from Middlebury College and served in the Peace Corps in Panama and worked a couple of different jobs in Washington, D.C., including two years as a field organizer for the ACLU, according to her biography on the Maine Humanities Council website.

Collins, who crushed her Democratic opponent former congressman Tom Allen in 2008, is the heavy favorite to win re-election in 2014. The three-term moderate Republican has one of the highest favorability ratings of all U.S. senators and would have a huge money-raising advantage over Bellows.

Though semi-known in some parts of Maine thanks to her prominent role in several statewide campaigns, national political groups would be unlikely to dig deep into their pockets to support Bellows. Collins is in an obviously strong position to win and there are other more contentious races across the country. State groups would also likely be unwilling to throw much Bellows’ way either, as Democrat Mike Michaud has launched a serious effort to unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democrats are also making a bid to retain Michaud’s open congressional seat.

But the match-up would prove interesting if the two ever ended up on a debate stage together. Bellows would likely hammer Collins over her support for the Patriot Act, the sweeping measure passed in the wake of 9/11 that granted law enforcement broad surveillance capabilities, that opponents – like Bellows – decried for infringing on citizens’ civil liberties. The issue is particularly salient in the wake of revelations from national security leaker Edward Snowden that have reignited public discourse over the proper role of the government’s ability to monitor private citizens.

A spokesman for Collins did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer with U.S. News and World Report, who hails from the state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. She spent much of 2012 covering the presidential campaign and particularly enjoyed her time on the road in states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Ohio and Ohio. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and is a Bowdoin College grad.