March 7, 2012

Angus King says he won't be spoiler in Maine Senate race

The independent says if it looks like he can't win, he'll drop out of the race to avoid skewing the results.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Jonathan Riskind jriskind@mainetoday.com
Washington Bureau Chief

 

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Angus King answers questions during an interview Tuesday at the Press Herald offices in Portland.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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King would top Pingree, Summers, poll indicates

WASHINGTON — A poll released Tuesday by a national firm indicates that independent former Gov. Angus King Jr. would narrowly win a three-way race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers.

In Public Policy Polling's survey of 1,256 Maine voters, King got 36 percent of the vote to Pingree's 31 percent and Summers' 28 percent.

King would take 35 percent of Democrats' votes, 53 percent of the votes from independents and 25 percent of the GOP vote, the poll indicates. But King might have to pledge to caucus with Senate Democrats to get that type of support, according to the poll.

While 51 percent of his supporters said they want King to caucus with Democrats, just 25 percent want him to caucus with Republicans. Independents favor King caucusing with Democrats by 40 percent to 27 percent, the poll indicates.

"Angus King and Chellie Pingree look like the early favorites in Maine," Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a prepared statement. "King will have a hard time holding onto his early Democratic support without a pledge to caucus with the party if he's elected to the Senate."

The poll included 550 Democratic voters who usually vote in primaries and 369 Republican voters who usually vote in primaries.

It was conducted from Friday through Sunday and had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points for the entire survey, 4.2 points for the Democratic sample and 5.1 points for the GOP sample.

The poll, done by automated phone interviews, was not authorized or paid for by any campaign or political party, said Public Policy Polling.

– Jonathan Riskind

POTENTIAL CANDIDATES FOR CONGRESS

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, or 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.U.S. SENATE

DEMOCRATS

JOHN BALDACCI, MATTHEW DUNLAP, CHELLIE PINGREE, BENJAMIN POLLARD,

REPUBLICANS

RICK BENNETT, MARGARET BYRNES, KAREN CARRINGER, GLEN CRAIG, SCOTT D'AMBOISE, DEBRA PLOWMAN, BRUCE POLIQUIN, WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, ROBERT SEELEY, MICHAEL STODDARD, CHARLIE SUMMERS

INDEPENDENTS

JULIA CARLSON, ANDREW IAN DODGE, ANGUS KING, AARON MARSTON, SEAMUS MAGUIRE, VERNE PARADIE JR. 

HOUSE DISTRICT 1 (SOUTHERN MAINE)

DEMOCRATS

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

REPUBLICANS

PATRICK CALDER, JON COURTNEY, MARKHAM GARTLEY, ARTHUR KYRICOS, DEBRA REAGAN, JOHN VEDRAL 

HOUSE DISTRICT 2 (CENTRAL/NORTHERN MAINE)

DEMOCRATS

MIKE MICHAUD (INCUMBENT)

REPUBLICANS

KEVIN RAYE

Former Gov. Angus King Jr., on his first full day as a declared candidate for the U.S. Senate, said Tuesday that he would consider dropping out of the race this fall if it appeared that he could not win.

"I am certainly not interested in being a spoiler and changing the dynamics of the race," the independent candidate said in an interview with The Portland Press Herald. King said he wouldn't be running if he didn't think he could win.

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said Tuesday that she might take a few more days to decide whether to run for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.

One factor in Pingree's decision is whether a three-way general election that includes her and King could split enough Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent votes to throw the race to a Republican.

In an interview, Pingree alluded to Maine's 2010 gubernatorial race, in which Republican Paul LePage won a close election over independent Eliot Cutler, with Democrat Libby Mitchell finishing third.

"That is the outcome I would not like to see," Pingree said.

Pingree also said the prospect of giving up her 1st District House seat, which she would be favored to win for a third term, also factors into her decision, now that King is in the race.

Pingree said she has talked about the race with King but they have made no deals.

"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," she said, "but it doesn't mean that everyone gets in a back room, smokes some cigars and a deal is cut."

Pingree was gathering information and awaiting results from a poll that was supposed to be completed Tuesday night by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Her 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 media outlets.

Former Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, also is considering running for the Senate seat.

The leading Republicans in the race appear to be former Maine Senate President Rick Bennett, state Attorney General William Schneider, state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, state Sen. Debra Plowman of Hampden and Secretary of State Charlie Summers.

Party candidates have until March 15 to submit at least 2,000 voter signatures to get on the June 12 primary ballot. Independents have until June 1 to submit at least 4,000 signatures to get on November's general election ballot.

Snowe, who has held the Senate seat since 1995, surprised the political word last week when she announced that she would not run for re-election. She expressed frustration about working in the Senate, which she said has become dysfunctional because of the polarization of the political parties.

King said Tuesday that he respects Snowe for making that decision. He said Mainers should express their frustration with party politics by sending an independent to Washington.

King would have a clearer path to victory without Pingree in the race. In addition to the political calculation, there is a personal one: King and Pingree are friends. King spent last Thanksgiving with Pingree and her family and close friends at her home in North Haven.

Pingree said her decision won't be personal because the stakes are too high. The race in Maine could determine whether Democrats hold their majority in the Senate.

"One of the biggest reasons I was thinking about (running) was because the balance of the United States Senate rests on this seat and I think, in a head-to-head, no question about it, I have the best shot of winning. A three-way race just makes that more complicated."

(Continued on page 2)

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