Collins worked for Senator William Cohen from 1975 until 1987, when she became chairman of the Maine commission on financial regulation. She served in this position until 1992, when she briefly served as New England regional director of the National Small Business Administration. She then moved to Massachusetts and served as its deputy treasurer during 1993, but then moved back to Maine. She was the Republican candidate in the Maine gubernatorial election of 1994, but both she and the Democratic candidate were defeated by the independent candidate, Angus King. When Senator Cohen announced his retirement, Collins became the Republican candidate for senate in 1996, and she won the election. She was reelected in 2002. She continues to be interested in issues related to the operation of government and the regulation of the economy.