March 6, 2012

Former Gov. King announces he'll run for U.S. Senate

Angus King's independent candidacy is a plus, some observers say, but others believe it could contribute to a GOP win.

By Jonathan Riskind
Washington Bureau Chief

Former Gov. Angus King Jr., a high-profile independent who enjoyed broad popularity in his two terms as governor, announced Monday night that he will join the race to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.

click image to enlarge

Angus King kisses his wife, Mary Herman, at Bowdoin College on Monday night after announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Angus King greets supporters at Bowdoin College on Monday night after announcing that he will run for the Senate seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer:

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These people have taken out nomination papers for the two U.S. House seats and one Senate seat that will be on Maine’s ballot in November. The list does not include people who have expressed interest but not taken out papers and those who took out papers but later withdrew. Party candidates need at least 1,000 valid signatures for the House seats and 2,000 for the Senate seat by March 15. Independents have until June 1, the date of Maine’s primaries.


John Baldacci
Matthew Dunlap
Chellie Pingree
Benjamin Pollard

Rick Bennett
Margaret Byrnes
Karen Carringer
Glen Craig
Scott D’Amboise
Debra Plowman
Bruce Poliquin
William Schneider
Robert Seeley
Michael Stoddard
Charlie Summers

Julia Carlson
Andrew Ian Dodge
Aaron Marston
Seamus Maguire
Verne Paradie Jr.

southern Maine

Phil Bartlett
Shenna Bellows
Peter Chandler
David Costa
Cynthia Dill
Jon Hinck
Barry Hobbins
David Lemoine
Hannah Pingree
Wellington Lyons
Brendan P. Rielly
Diane Russell

Patrick Calder
Jon Courtney
Markham Gartley
Arthur Kyricos
Debra Reagan
John Vedral

central/northern Maine

Mike Michaud (incumbent)

Kevin Raye

After giving a previously scheduled lecture at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, his hometown, King made his much-anticipated announcement. He said Snowe’s rationale for forgoing likely re-election – that the two-party system in Washington is broken – shows that electing an independent makes sense.

“Frankly, I think I might scare (the parties), and that would be a good thing,” he told about 200 people in the college’s Moulton Union. “Nobody will be able to tell me how to vote, except the people of Maine.”

The race has national significance because a Democratic win in Maine, considered unlikely before Snowe announced last week that she won’t seek a fourth term, could determine whether Democrats keep their majority in the Senate.

King’s candidacy has some Democrats worried that the socially liberal independent could take enough votes from the Democratic nominee to throw the election to the GOP. His decision had been awaited since soon after Snowe’s surprise announcement on Feb. 28.

Eliot Cutler, an independent gubernatorial candidate in 2010, considered running for the Senate but backed away Monday and endorsed King, issuing a statement saying King “would bring to the Senate the independence, the abilities, the reputation and the disposition that will make him a great senator.”

King endorsed Cutler in his run for governor.

For Democrats and Republicans, multi-candidate Senate primaries remain possible. It remained unclear Monday who all of those candidates will be.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree issued a statement after King’s announcement saying she is still considering a run and acknowledging that control of the Senate could be at stake. She didn’t say how King’s entry into the race might affect her thinking.

A longtime Maine Democratic consultant, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that if Pingree doesn’t run, a major factor would be her concern that she and King could divide the Democratic liberal base and pave the way for a GOP victory.

King didn’t name any of his potential rivals for the seat Monday night, and pledged a campaign free of negative ads.

He made his case for an independent in the Senate, noting that skeptics doubted he would be effective as governor without the backing of eitherparty.

“We proved that with civility, common sense, building bridges, working with coalitions and working with people one at a time, we could do something,” he said.

“I can speak for the middle.” King said, “The real issue is the system itself.”

A Maine Democratic insider who is close to Pingree and King noted before King’s announcement that the two are close friends. King celebrated Thanksgiving at Pingree’s house in North Haven last fall, at a dinner attended by about 15 to 20 people.

King said in a phone interview Monday that he and Pingree are in fact close friends, dating back three decades, but that “can’t necessarily decide what you are going to do. ... Ultimately, you have to do what is right for the country.”

Pingree’s husband, S. Donald Sussman, a frequent Democratic donor, is buying a 5 percent equity stake in MaineToday Media, which owns The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and other Maine media outlets.

Former two-term Democratic Gov. John Baldacci also is considering the Senate race. His thinking won’t be affected by King’s decision, or Pingree’s, said Dan Cashman, a public relations executive in Bangor who is serving as spokesman for Baldacci.

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