November 8, 2012

Democrats ask King to choose their side

The independent senator-elect is expected to align with them but insists he'll remain an independent voice.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Independent Senator-elect Angus King speaks at a news conference Wednesday in Freeport: "We're tired of fighting, we're tired of bickering, we're tired of blaming . . . and we want some problems solved."


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Independent Senator-elect Angus King hugs his wife, Mary Herman, after speaking at a news conference on Wednesday in Freeport.


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"If that was the case, there might be a thousand people in this room, from all over the country," King joked at his news conference, which drew the Maine media but few or no national reporters.

King said he hopes to serve on the powerful Finance Committee, but may have limited pull as a freshman senator without a party.

King will be one of a dozen freshmen senators to be sworn in next year and one of three new faces representing New England.

Harvard University professor Elizabeth Warren unseated Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, while Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy of Connecticut won the seat now held by retiring Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Eight of the 12 freshmen are Democrats.

King said Wednesday he will try to develop influence in the Senate by forming alliances with moderates from both parties, a group he said could become a powerful voting bloc that breaks through the partisan gridlock.

"It doesn't take 20 or 30 or 40 senators to make a big difference," he said. "I think the magic number is somewhere between eight and 10. ... I might be able to have an influence right out of the box."

King said some of his first calls in Washington also will be to former governors in the Senate, including several he worked with years ago.

"Former governors tend to be more bipartisan," King said. "And they also tend to be action-oriented."

King's tenure as Maine's chief executive overlapped to some extent with the governorships of three Democratic senators, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Warner of Virginia and Tom Carper of Delware, as well as Republican senators John Hoeven of North Dakota and Mike Johanns of Nebraska. 

Warner and Johanns are also among a bipartisan group of eight senators whom King cited Wednesday as trying to come up with a compromise to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff," a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that could take effect automatically on Jan. 1.

King, a former Democrat who endorsed President Obama, has long been expected to caucus with Democrats in order to get assigned to working committees. Pro-Republican groups spent millions of dollars trying to defeat him and Democrats spent more than $400,000 to protect his lead.

King said Reid did not make a hard sell in their phone conversation Tuesday night, but instead asked that King contact the Senate's two sitting independents, Lieberman and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, to ask how Democrats have treated them. Both caucus with the Democrats.

King said he planned to call both men.

Sen. Patty Murray, the Washington state lawmaker who headed the Democrats' nationwide political campaign, said Wednesday that she planned to speak with King in the near future, too. Murray said she was unsure where King would land but added, "I have a tremendous amount of respect for him."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also congratulated King by phone Tuesday night, but did not try to persuade him to align with the Republicans, she said. The state's new senior senator plans to introduce King to colleagues next week, however.

"I think it's clear that Angus is very likely to caucus with the Democrats," Collins said.

But, she said, he could have real influence as one of a group of moderate senators who seek compromise and don't necessarily follow their party leaders.

"I believe he does have a potential to play a very important role among a group of us who are among the more moderate senators," Collins said.

"The key for Angus is going to be his ability to work with those of us who are trying to solve problems and are less driven by ideological concerns. I think Angus will fit right in with that group."

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:


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