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Monday March 12, 2012 | 03:08 PM

National Republican continue to push the claim that national Democrats are shouldering aside their own candidates to make way for former Gov. Angus King’s independent Senate bid – on the theory that King will caucus with Democrats.

King, who won gubernatorial elections in 1994 and 1998 as an independent, says he won’t say whether he will caucus with Republicans or Democrats unless he wins and goes to Washington. The Maine Senate race could decide the balance of power in the Senate as Democrats try to hold on to their 53-seat majority.

King supported George W. Bush for president in 2000, but endorsed Democrat John Kerry in 2004 and has contributed to Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns and supports Obama's reelection. Some Maine and national Democrats acknowledge many Democrats could coalesce behind King’s candidacy, but insist no deal has been cut.

 But the National Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a release today saying that, “After pushing aside liberal Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree last week and with just four days to go for Republican and Democratic candidates to file 2,000 signatures in order to make the 2012 ballot in Maine, national Democrats show no signs of supporting any of the possible Democratic Senate candidates, including State Senator Cynthia Dill” of Cape Elizabeth.

Last week, the NRSC posted a web ad with the same back room deal theme.

However, Pingree has said she was not pushed aside by national Democrats and decided not to run completely on her own – albeit after coming to the conclusion that she and King could split enough of the vote to throw the election to a Republican.

“No one from the Democratic Party tried to convince me to get out of the race,” Pingree said. “They encouraged me strongly to stay in the race.”

Democratic Party officials have not been talking to King, either, Pingree said.

Pingree said last week that she has talked about the race with King, a close friend who came to her House last fall for Thanksgiving dinner. King gave Pingree advance notice before he made his decision to run public.

But Pingree said last week that no deals were cut between the two of them.

“People end up deciding whether or not they want to run for office for the reasons that are important to them and it’s always good to stay in the conversation with people, but it doesn’t mean that everyone gets in a back room, smokes some cigars and a deal is cut,” Pingree said. “It’s just not like that.”

For his part, King decried the GOP web ad.

“There are no back room deals, no conversations have been had,” King said in a statement via spokeswoman Crystal Canney. “Maine people deserve better than this kind of untruthful negative advertising.”

 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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