PORTLAND – With Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe still on the fence, Maine has emerged as a key battleground for supporters and opponents of President Bush’s nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
The Fair and Independent Courts Coalition is in the midst of a five-day tour of 14 Maine communities aimed at persuading 2,000 Mainers to contact the two Republican senators and urge them to oppose the Alito appointment.
A pro-Alito group, Progress for America, announced that it has bought four days of TV advertising to try to build support for the federal appeals judge in advance of next month’s hearing on the nomination before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Critics of the nomination argued that Alito is hostile toward abortion rights, workers’ rights and the rights of disabled people.
Alito “will further divide this country and potentially roll back years of precedent,” Julia McDonald of Leeds told a State House news conference Monday. “All Maine women should have grave concerns about this nomination.”
In a news release announcing its ad blitz, Progress for America said Alito “is a tremendously qualified judge who applies the law fairly with no political agenda.”
Another group, Democracy Maine, planned to join the fray next week at a news conference expressing opposition to Alito’s nomination.
Spokesmen for Snowe and Collins said the senators are looking forward to the hearing and remain open-minded on how they will vote.
“She hasn’t decided yet,” said Preston Hartman, Snowe’s spokesman. He said Snowe believes that Alito “deserves to have the hearing and for senators to respect the process and hear what he has to say” before they take a stand.
Kevin Kelley, Collins’ spokesman, said she too is awaiting Alito’s confirmation hearing before she decides whether to support the appointment.