April 14, 2013

King’s first 100 days: ‘The hardest I’ve ever worked in my life’

Remaining wide-eyed in a place that thrives on cynicism, Maine's independent senator makes an impression on both sides of the aisle.

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 3)

Today's poll: Angus King

Do you think Sen. Angus King has done a good job in his first 100 days in office?

Yes

No

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In the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building, Maine Sen. Angus King waits to begin a remote interview with TV news host Chris Matthews of MSNBC after a vote in the chamber Thursday.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Maine’s independent senator arrives at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday. King lives about four blocks away and walks to work every morning.

Additional Photos Below

That said, King lay awake Wednesday night worrying how the latter position might go over with the Sandy Hook parents the next morning.

When he finally sat down with them, he recalled, "I said, 'I've got to be honest with you. Here's where I come out (on assault weapons).' "

And?

"They said, 'That's where we are, too,' " King replied, exhaling hard to show his relief.

• • • • •

The roller-coaster ride, of course, has only just begun. Exhilarating as his first 100 days have been, more than 2,000 remain before the end of his term.

And beyond that, King envisions this unexpected chapter of his life lasting not one term, but in all likelihood two.

"That is, if the voters of Maine still want me after six years," he chortled.

In other words, he could be doing this until he's 80.

To appreciate what that means, consider what King did after that draining and dramatic gun vote on Thursday: a 90-minute Intelligence Committee hearing; a taping with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., for the first half of King's monthly radio show on WGAN in Portland; a four-minute dash across Capitol Hill for a live interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC; a taping for the second half of his radio show with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; a televised Q&A with the Bangor Daily News; a taped message for a nurses' convention he couldn't attend; a two-plus-hour dinner with staff ...

"It is literally the hardest I've ever worked in my life," King said. "A -- because of the hours, and B -- because of the intensity."

Why he would do it is no mystery to Mainers who have watched him, and mostly supported him, all these years. For a man who wears his love of history on his sleeve and now walks among the larger-than-life murals, marble statues and other tributes to centuries gone by, there simply is no better place on Earth to report each day for work.

But how King, on the cusp of 70, is doing it -- the grueling 12-hour days, the relentlessly steep learning curves, the incessant relationship-building with colleagues of all political stripes (he's already had personal visits with almost half of them) -- is as hard to fathom as that magical morning light on the Capitol dome.

Exhausted? Try exhilarated.

"I don't know what it is," mused King. "The circumstances call forth the energy."

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@mainetoday.com

 

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Additional Photos

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Nathan Little, 10, of Lewiston, who was visiting Washington with his mother, Jackie, and 8-year-old sister, Kristen, reacts Wednesday after Sen. Angus King asks him what kind of work senators do. King wrote a note for his teacher, explaining that Nathan should be excused from school since he was helping King with his work in Washington.

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Shortly before a vote on the gun-control debate in the Senate on Thursday, Sen. Angus King speaks with some of the parents of victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December.

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Joined by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., left, Sen. Angus King participates Thursday in a weekly radio program sponsored by WGAN radio. It was one of several media events that followed the Maine senator’s already lengthy workday on the Senate floor.

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Sen. Angus King speaks with Mainers Jimmy Carrier, left, and Bob Hamer on Wednesday during Capitol Coffee with Angus, a weekly session King holds for his constituents in Washington, D.C.

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Sen. Angus King addresses members of his staff in their cramped, temporary office space in a basement room of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington on Wednesday. The group of almost two dozen aides is hoping to move into bigger quarters by midsummer.

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In a TV studio in the basement of the Capitol, Maine Sen. Angus King waits for the start of an online meeting with students at Bucksport High School on Wednesday. He spoke to the teens about his experiences as a senator over the past three months and answered their questions.

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The senator strolls past a larger-than-life statue of William King – Maine’s first governor – in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall on Thursday. For an unabashed student of history, there simply is no better place on Earth to report for work each day. Says the 69-year-old senator: “The circumstances call forth the energy.”

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During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., listen as Gen. Philip M. Breedlove answers questions as part of his confirmation process. The freshman senators bonded quickly after arriving in Washington. Both are former governors and they serve on two committees together. Breedlove is nominated for the post of commander, United States European Command, and supreme allied commander, Europe.

Staff Photographer

 


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Today's poll: Angus King

Do you think Sen. Angus King has done a good job in his first 100 days in office?

Yes

No

View Results