It looks like Susan Collins is in a tight race, although I don’t trust political polls. I find the Collins polling numbers particularly odd, considering the consistently good job she has been doing for the people of Maine. But that’s politics these days. I don’t always agree with how Collins votes, and sometimes she makes me downright mad, but, overall, Collins deserves to be reelected. Here are three reasons why:

Collins has seniority. It took me a long time to understand how our Legislature and Congress work. First of all, when you walk through the doors of the Capitol, be it in Augusta or Washington, you can forget the idea that all men are created equal. In Congress, two circumstances make all the difference: The majority party controls almost everything and the longer a senator is in office, the more powerful they are. Susan Collins is currently tied for 10th place in terms of seniority in the Senate. Her seniority translates to “pick of the litter” committee appointments, and leadership roles. This gives Collins the clout to shape legislation.

What does Collins’ seniority mean for Maine? In Washington, it is all about the money — who gets it and who does not. There is lots of debate, but the final dollar decisions are made by the Appropriations Committee. According to the Constitution of the United States of America: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of Appropriations made by law.” Only the most powerful senators sit on Appropriations and Collins has one of those seats. And, one day soon, she may be the chairman. Think of that. A woman from Maine controlling the most powerful committee in Washington!

Collins also sits on several key (for Maine) Appropriations subcommittees, including the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration. This position is important because Maine is one of the most rural states and its economy is highly dependent on agriculture. Maine is also one of the oldest states in terms of population demographics and Collins chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Her work on these committees gives Mainers a strong voice on issues that very much matter to Mainers. Any newly elected senator will be relegated to minor roles on second-tier committees.

Collins is bipartisan. In a time when our country is so polarized, having a senior senator who plays well on both sides of the aisle is even more important than usual. In 2019, The Lugar Center and Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy again ranked Collins as the nation’s most bipartisan senator. Her score of 4.06 was nearly twice that of the senator in second place. Collins now holds three of the 10 all-time best scores in this ongoing study. (Google the Lugar Center and check it out — lots of interesting info.) With the Senate likely to stay fairly evenly split, with neither party controlling the magical 60-vote majority, meaningful legislation will only happen with bipartisan support. Collins’ vote is often the deal maker or the deal breaker.

Sometimes I get annoyed with Collins because she is a moderate, so much so she is often referred to as a RINO (Republican in name only). For example, I believe Collins is one of only two Republican senators who support abortion. That said, it seems to me what the Senate and this country need, now more than ever, are moderate lawmakers. Collins' opponent is no moderate!

Collins is dependable and accessible. Over the years, I have hired and fired more than a few people. One thing I have learned: People from The County work hard and are dependable. And Collins is no exception. Apparently, getting up in the wee hours of the morning to pick potatoes has a lasting effect on a person’s work ethic! Incredibly, Collins has not missed a single congressional vote in 23 years. Last year, when Collins cast her 7,000th consecutive vote, Sen. Angus King opined, “To have made 7,000 consecutive votes is an extraordinary achievement, particularly given the logistics of this place, the logistics of getting back-and-forth to Maine.”

As some of you may imagine, I email Collins’ Bangor office with some regularity. Sometimes they ignore my rants. But when I ask reasonable questions or voice my opinions on relevant matters, I always hear back. I only wish local politicians were so responsive!

So, what has Collins “done for me lately”? Well, for one, she helped write the Paycheck Protection Act. This law provided $2 billion in critical assistance (free money) to over 2,800 Maine companies. As I have opined in this column, the PPP was not perfect. I don’t think all of the companies that got the free money deserved it. But nothing that comes out of Washington is perfect, and undoubtedly the PPP “loans” were what kept many Mainers' and many businesses’ financial noses above water during the bleak months of April, May and June.

Speaking of staying above water, thanks to Collins, Maine Maritime Academy will soon have a new, $300 million classroom floating in Castine harbor. The state-of-the-art replacement for the old MMA training ship will be over 500 feet long and constructed to serve the dual purposes of training young sailors and supporting Homeland Security. The new training ship State of Maine will have eight classrooms, a full training bridge, helicopter pad, an auditorium and engine rooms arranged to facilitate training. In an emergency, the ship will serve as a mobile floating hospital capable of caring for 1,000 people and delivering other aid.

The PPP and the new MMA training ship are just recent examples of how Susan Collins' seniority, and hard work, benefit the people of Maine. Her bipartisan “only adult in the room” voice and clout on Appropriations make Collins the best choice for Maine and for our country. So, vote early and vote often. (Amazingly, with mail-in ballots and ranked choice voting, that’s now legal! Sort of.)

Randall Poulton is a columnist for The Republican Journal. He lives in Winterport.