PORTLAND — Former independent Gov. Angus King said Friday he supports President Barack Obama’s re-election bid but that doesn’t mean he’d caucus with Democrats if elected to the U.S. Senate.
“This year, seeing the likely alternatives, I think the president should be re-elected,” King told The Associated Press.
But King, a former Democrat, hastened to point out that in the past he’s also supported Republicans, including George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential race. He said, “I call ’em as I see ’em.”
Without offering evidence, some Republicans in Washington accused King this week of cutting a deal with Democrats in exchange for U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree bowing out of the race. Pingree dropped out on Wednesday, the day after King announced he’s entering the race.
“I can tell you that’s complete hogwash,” King said.
King said there will be no decision with whom to caucus — Republicans, Democrats or neither — until after his arrival in Washington. And then, he said, “I’m going to base that decision on what makes me a more effective senator for Maine.”
Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s announcement last week that she wouldn’t seek re-election set off a scramble because candidates for the soon-to-be empty seat face a March 15 deadline to submit 2,000 signatures to get on the June primary ballot.
Snowe cited excessive partisanship in her decision to retire from the Senate, and King characterized himself as the antidote to partisanship.
As an independent, King said he’d be beholden to neither party, so he could work from the center to bring about consensus among Republicans and Democrats.
It’s unclear who among the major parties will be vying against each other in the June primaries to face King in a three-way race in November.
Democrat John Baldacci, a former two-term governor and four-term congressman, is considering joining a field that includes four previously announced candidates: former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, state Rep. John Hinck, state Sen. Sen. Cynthia Dill and home builder Ben Pollard.
On the GOP side, Scott D’Amboise, of Lisbon Falls, could be joined by Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, Attorney General William Schneider, Secretary of State Charlie Summers, state Sen. Debra Plowman, of Hampden, and former state Sen. Rick Bennett, all of whom have expressed interest.