Derek Levasseur, a construction worker and right-wing blogger, formally announced his campaign to unseat Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the 2020 election on Sunday.
The 44-year-old political newcomer is the second Republican to publicly say he will challenge the veteran senator during next year’s primary.
“I’m not running against Sen. Collins out of resentment,” Levasseur said during a press conference. “I’m running for the people ― for common people.”
Levasseur, in the opening lines of his speech, addressed a 2012 incident in which he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence assault after a fight during his wedding reception.
Levasseur on Sunday claimed to have been defending his then-15-year-old daughter from the “inappropriate behavior of two men.”
“In the process of doing the right thing, I made some mistakes along the way,” he said. “That situation has been rectified. My family has moved on.”
The Senate hopeful has no criminal record after complying with the terms of a one-year deferred disposition on several charges, according to The Bangor Daily News.
Levasseur, who was a police officer at the time, was reportedly put on leave and eventually left the position. He gave up his police certification in 2013, the Daily News reported.
Levasseur first announced his candidacy in a Facebook post on March 19, in which he stated that Collins, who assumed office in 1997, had served long enough.
It’s “time for new ideas and less grandstanding,” he wrote. “I am a common man, with common sense! We are tired of the elite playing politics when they get elected and forgetting the common person they represent.”
Collins, the most senior Republican woman in the Senate, will likely face an uphill battle during her re-election bid next year. Her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October, despite several decades-old sexual misconduct claims against him, drew scorn from her Democratic constituents.
She also voted in December 2017 to pass the Republican tax plan, which repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, leaving 13 million more Americans uninsured and increasing premiums by 10 percent.
No Democrats have formally announced their intentions to run against her, though there has been speculation about several potential contenders.
On the other side of the aisle, some of Maine’s Republican voters have signaled they’d like a senator to represent them who is a staunch defender of President Donald Trump.
Collins, widely viewed as a moderate among her conservative colleagues, has broken ranks with party leaders on key legislation. She voted earlier this month to pass a resolution against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in order to seize funding to build his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Levasseur on Sunday praised Collins as a “constitutional scholar” and vowed never to smear her during his campaign.
“I’m not the enemy of the honorable senator who has served Maine with her own convictions for the past 22 years,” he said. “We focus too much on what we dislike about others, and I’m not going to do that.”
I believe the Second Amendment is as important to fight a tyrannical government as it is to defend yourself.
Derek Levasseur, U.S. Senate candidate from Maine
In a phone interview with HuffPost on Wednesday, Levasseur, a former Democrat, pushed back on local media reports characterizing him as a Trump fanatic.
“I am not a super Trump Republican,” Levasseur said. However, he added, “as long as President Trump does things to benefit Americans on both sides of the aisle, he’s going to have my full support.”
During his press conference Sunday, Levasseur called on Trump to help a Dutch man in Minnesota whose two 20-something sons are being forced to move back to the Netherlands, though they have lived in the U.S. for more than 17 years.
Kor Mulder immigrated to the U.S. in 2001 and obtained a temporary work visa for investors, which he has continued to renew as needed over the past two decades. The visa only allows his dependents to remain in the U.S. until the age of 21.
“I am asking President Trump to move the right people in the right direction to look at this family,” Levasseur said Sunday. “I believe the hardworking family like the Mulder family is what made America great. I believe they should be part of making it great again.”
He lamented that “illegals,” a derogatory term used to describe undocumented immigrants, are provided “free lawyers” while fighting for protected status in the U.S. while the Mulders are not.
“These situations have been happening way too long,” he said. “We need to elect people with common sense for sensible immigration reform.”
Levasseur has said he’s an avid defender of freedom of religion and the press, as well as a strong proponent of the Second Amendment.
“I believe the Second Amendment is as important to fight a tyrannical government as it is to defend yourself,” he said during his press conference Sunday.
Levasseur did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on this statement.
Despite his formal campaign announcement, Levasseur has yet to file with the Federal Election Commission. He told the Daily News that he plans to do so when he’s raised $5,000 toward his campaign. As of Sunday afternoon, he had not yet reached that amount.
Max Linn, a financial planner, said in June last year that he plans to challenge Collins in 2020. He made the decision minutes after a federal judge disqualified him from the 2018 Republican Senate primary in Maine because he hadn’t collected enough valid voter signatures.
Watch Levasseur’s full press conference below or click here to watch it.