Friends ask why I support Susan Collins. The answer is simple: She is the best senator in the nation because she is the most bipartisan – as judged seven years running by Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. She has a proven record of independence, integrity, and bipartisanship, attributes I value most in elected officials.

She first caught my attention in 1999, when, in her first term, she broke party ranks and voted against the impeachment of Bill Clinton, helping to put an end to a partisan witch hunt.

She has been a leader on issues of equality. In 2004, she was one of only a few Republicans voting against a proposal to ban same sex marriage and later was among the first Republican senators supporting marriage equality. She worked tirelessly to extend employment benefits, like health care, to same sex partners, was the primary Republican sponsor of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.“ As reported by the Press Herald, Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall “credited Collins with immense courage and strength.”

Susan Collins is pro-choice. She was one of only two Republicans to join Democrats to vote to fund Planned Parenthood. In late 2017, Planned Parenthood recognized her support for women’s health and reproductive rights. In conferring an award for her voting record, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said, “Senator Collins has been an outspoken champion of women’s health. Thanks to Senator Collins’ steadfast commitment to her constituents, tens of thousands of women in Maine and millions of women across the country, still have access to essential health care … women’s access to health care was truly on the line, and Susan Collins never wavered. We are forever grateful for Susan Collins’ leadership.” (Unfortunately, Ms. Richards “forever” lasted about nine months.) I continue to be grateful for her leadership on these issues.

To those who say they can’t support Collins because of her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, throughout her career she has voted independently and in a bipartisan manner on judicial nominations, supporting Obama nominees Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor; in fact, Collins was the first Republican senator to endorse Sotomayor. When President Obama nominated Portland Democrat Bill Kayatta to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the land, it was Sen. Collins who advocated for his appointment with her fellow Republicans.

In 2017, Collins voted consistently to oppose repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

No one has worked harder to assist Mainers during this COVID crisis. With a family member in the hospitality industry, I saw the stress and economic harm caused by the pandemic. Sen. Collins worked tirelessly to protect Mainers from the economic fallout and was the primary sponsor of the Paycheck Protection Plan. Under the PPP, more than 27,000 Maine employers received grants of $2.2 billion, including 24,360 Maine small businesses. An estimated 243,370 Mainers remained employed. The Portland restaurant where our son is executive chef was able to keep 20 employees working through the shutdown. Without PPP, the restaurant would have closed.

In endorsing Sen. Collins in 2014, Sen. Angus King said: “ I have seen first hand her work ethic, her intelligence and her integrity. She always puts Maine and the country first and isn’t afraid to cross party lines to get things done.”

This year, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, in a move characterized by Politico “as a rare rebuff of partisan politics in an increasingly polarized Senate,” endorsed Susan Collins, stating, “for America to lose someone like Susan Collins would be an absolute shame.” Recently, Manchin and Collins teamed up to introduce legislation making adaptive vehicles more affordable for disabled veterans.

As Sen. Manchin said, it would be an absolute shame for America to lose Susan Collins. Her record of bipartisanship is second to none, but the Democrats would have you believe that bipartisanship does not matter anymore. We in Maine have a unique opportunity to show that bipartisanship still matters and return Susan Collins to the Senate.

Mary Ann Lynch is a lifelong Democrat and a resident of Cape Elizabeth who served in the administration of Gov. Joseph Brennan.

Reprinted from The Portland Press Herald with permission.