PORTLAND – Former independent Gov. Angus King Jr. said Friday that he supports President Obama’s re-election bid but that doesn’t mean he will caucus with Democrats if he is 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.
King, a former Democrat, pointed out that in the past he has 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’s decision to stay out of the race.
Pingree announced her decision not to run on Wednesday, two days after King announced that he would run for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.
“I can tell you that’s complete hogwash,” King said of the talk of a deal.
King said he wouldn’t decide which party to caucus with — Republicans, Democrats or neither — before 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.”
Snowe’s announcement last week that she won’t seek re-election set off a scramble because party candidates for the seat face a March 15 deadline to submit at least 2,000 signatures to get on the June 12 primary ballot.
Independents have until June 1 to submit at least 4,000 signatures to get on the November ballot.
In announcing her decision to leave the Senate, Snowe cited excessive partisanship in Congress. King characterized himself as an antidote to partisanship.
As an independent, King said, he would be beholden to neither party, so he could work from the center to bring about consensus among Republicans and Democrats.
It’s unclear which major-party candidates will run in the June primaries to face King 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 of Portland, state Sen. Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth, and home builder Ben Pollard of Portland.
On the GOP side, at least 11 potential candidates have expressed interest, including Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls, Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, Attorney General William Schneider, Secretary of State Charlie Summers, state Sen. Debra Plowman of Hampden, and former state Sen. Rick Bennett of Oxford.