By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Susan Collins, one of the few remaining moderate Republicans in the U.S. Senate, is expected to announce on Friday whether she will run for governor of Maine next year in what would be a bid to replace conservative Governor Paul LePage.
A Collins spokeswoman confirmed she plans to declare her intentions for the gubernatorial race following months of speculation on whether the four-term senator would be willing to leave the Senate, where she has played a pivotal role.
Last month, Collins was one of only three Republican senators to publicly announce her opposition to a bill repealing the "Obamacare" healthcare law and replacing it with more a limited plan.
LePage, also a Republican, is barred by state law from seeking another term.
If Collins decides to run, she could keep her Senate seat while campaigning. Her term as senator expires at the end of 2020.
The 64-year-old Collins easily won re-election to her Senate seat in 2014, with nearly 70 percent of the vote. As one of the few centrists in the bitterly divided Senate, Collins has often cast herself as a bridge between Republicans and Democrats in seeking bipartisan compromises.
Maine's attorney general, Janet Mills, has said she is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by James Dalgleish)