Susan Collins, the Maine Senator and moderate Republican whose vote will be crucial in the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, is from a family with a long tradition of public service.
Susan Collins married later in life in 2012, and she does not have children. Collins is married to Thomas Daffron, who was well-known for decades in the halls of Congress, working as a chief of staff for top Republican Senators, including Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, the other moderate Republican on whose vote the Kavanaugh confirmation partly hinges. Her parents were both involved in politics, as were other family members.
Collins announced on Friday that she is voting “yes” for Kavanaugh’s nomination. With Arizona Republican Jeff Flake also saying he’s a yes unless something big changes things, that means that Kavanaugh would have enough votes even if Joe Manchin and Lisa Murkowski- the other undecided senators – say no. That’s because it would then go to Vice President Mike Pence in a tie-breaker, and he would also certainly put Kavanaugh through.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Father of Susan Collins Was a State Senator in Maine
Collins is the daughter of a former Maine state senator named Donald F. Collins. Donald Collins died in March 2018 at the age of 92.
According to his obituary in the Bangor Daily News, Donald Collins was a “fixture” on the political scene in Maine for years.
According to the Daily News, Collins served in the Maine state Legislature, earning five terms in both the Maine House and Senate from the 1970s through early 1990s. He also served as the mayor of the City of Caribou, Maine. “Don represented the best of Maine: a dedicated public servant, a pillar of the business community and a loving husband and father,” U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent, told the Daily News in a statement when Donald Collins passed away.
He was a World War II veteran injured in the Battle of the Bulge.
2. Susan Collins’s Mother Was a Mayor
Susan Collins’s mother Patricia Collins is Catholic. Her father was Universalist, according to The New York Times, which said that Patricia Collins didn’t send her children on religious retreats because she didn’t want their religious fervor to become too emotional.
One of Collins’s siblings, Michael, served time in prison for drug dealing, according to the Times. There are six Collins siblings in all.
In addition to also being a former mayor of Caribou, Maine, Patricia Collins once headed University of Maine’s board of trustees, People Magazine reports. Caribou is a small community with fewer than 10,000 residents located in Aroostook County, Maine.
3. Susan Collins First Met Her Husband, Tom Daffron, When She Was an Intern Years Ago & She Does Not Have Children
Thomas Daffron and Susan Collins go back decades as friends and, in the beginning, there was a mentorship type of situation between them. According to a story on Central Maine.com, Collins first met Tom Daffron when he hired her as an intern for former Senator Bill Cohen.
She was 21. It was 1974. According to the article Daffron, now Collins’s first and only husband, acted as Collins’s mentor both then and as her own political career began to ascend. “Somebody once said that the best person to marry is your best friend,” says Daffron to the newspaper. “This evolved from a working relationship to a friendship when I was working on her campaigns and now to husband and wife.”
“He’s extraordinarily smart, has a wonderful sense of humor and is a great friend,” Collins said to the Bangor Daily News. “Those qualities matter a lot to me.” Collins does not have children, and it was her first marriage – at age 59. Daffron has described himself as a moderate Republican as well and most of the politicians he has worked for belonged to the GOP.
4. Collins’s Uncle Was a Justice on the State Supreme Court & Her Family Runs a Lumber Yard
Susan Collins’s family’s public service tradition extends beyond her parents. According to The Free Press, a Maine news outlet, her paternal uncle was Samuel Collins, “a Rockland lawyer, Maine Senator and Maine Supreme Court Justice.”
Sam and Susan’s dad Don were part of a family of four brothers. Their father – Susan’s paternal grandfather – was also named Samuel Collins and also served in the state Senate, according to the Free Press. The article notes that Susan’s father, in addition to his political career, “took over the family business, which has now expanded to three lumberyards in Aroostook County.”
Her brother now runs Pioneer Lumber Yard, the newspaper reported.
5. Collins & Her Husband Married in 2012 When She Was 59
Collins and Daffron married in 2012. Their marriage occurred when Collins was already a Senator. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Dr. Thomas Bentum at Gray Memorial United Methodist Church in Caribou, Maine, according to The New York Times wedding announcement.
Collins was 59 at the time. Hillary Clinton held a women-only dinner at her house for Collins that The Washington Post dubbed a bachelorette party. The wedding was described by The Post as a small family wedding.
According to Bloomberg, Thomas Daffron “served as the Chief Operating Officer of Jefferson Consulting Group, LLC since September 2006. Mr. Daffron oversaw Jefferson Consulting Group’s administrative and financial functions as well as the day-to-day operations of the firm.”
He has served in numerous staff roles for politics, among them as chief of staff to William Cohen, a Republican who served in the House and Senate for Maine; to former Sen. Fred Thompson, a Tennessee Republican; and to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, Bloomberg reports. Murkowski is considered one of the other key Republican swing votes when it comes to Brett Kavanaugh.
According to Bloomberg, Daffron once worked for Democratic Arizona Rep. Morris Udall and was a speech writer for Illinois Senator Charles Percy, a Republican.
The New York Times wedding announcement reveals that Daffron is the son of the late Katherine M. Daffron and Thomas A. Daffron Jr., of Suffern New York. According to the announcement, the father was an assistant news editor at The New York Times and was managing editor of the paper’s International Edition in Paris.
You can read an oral history of Daffron’s life here. He said in the oral history that his mother was an “active Democrat” and his father non partisan and described some of his experiences working with senators throughout the years. He described himself as a moderate Republican.
Thomas Daffron has been registered as a lobbyist. In 2012, he told The Press Herald that he didn’t do much lobbying and never of Collins.
“We do very little lobbying at Jefferson as a general rule, and I don’t do any and haven’t for at least five years,” he told the newspaper’s Colin Woodard. “I’ve never lobbied Susan and would not because I think it would be inappropriate.” According to ABC News Radio, Daffron also worked as “the national campaign manager for the presidential campaign of Elizabeth Dole” and the marriage was Collins’s first.
You can see the lobbying profile for the Jefferson firm here.