Sen. Angus King speaks during a news conference where he endorsed Gov. Janet Mills at Moderation Brewing in Brunswick Friday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

BRUNSWICK — Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King endorsed Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ reelection bid on Friday, praising her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

King said Maine’s response has earned high marks from a variety of experts because of the state’s relatively low infection and death rates, as well as its economic recovery. He lauded Mills’ bipartisan, collaborative approach to governing and vouched for her character during a news conference in Brunswick Friday morning.

“She’s the same in private as she is in public,” King said. “She’s honest. She’s tough. And she’s governed with her head and her heart. She cares deeply about the state of Maine and I couldn’t be more proud to support her reelection as governor.”

Mills is seeking reelection against former two-term Republican Gov. Paul LePage and political newcomer Sam Hunkler, a Beals physician who is mounting a long-shot campaign as an independent.

Mills said she reached out to King for advice early in the pandemic because of his experience serving as governor during the 1998 ice storm. She said she followed his advice: tell the unvarnished truth to people, stick with the facts and avoid political decisions.

“That’s what my Cabinet and I did,” said Mills, citing the daily pandemic briefings by Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah and Department of Health and Human Services Director Jeanne Lambrew.


Mills also aligned her governing style to that of King, who served two terms as governor from 1995 to 2003.

“You and I share the same approach to governing, but more than that, that’s really a mindset for Maine people,” she said. “We believe in rolling up our sleeves and getting things done – solving problems. And like Maine people, we don’t like a lot of drama. We don’t like a lot of fuss. We like to get past the B.S. and find solutions, talking to all sides.”

The endorsement from King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is expected to help boost Mills’ standing with unenrolled voters – the second largest voting bloc in the state. About 32 percent of the state’s more than 1.1 million registered voters are not enrolled in a political party, while nearly 36 percent are Democrats and 28 percent are Republicans.

And King has consistently polled as one of the most popular U.S. senators. As of May, he was the fourth most popular member of the Senate, according to FiveThirtyEight, a political polling and analysis website.

King also made a subtle appeal to rural voters in Maine’s Republican-leaning 2nd Congressional District. He said Mills was the first governor in decades to come from rural Maine rather than one of the state’s urban centers. She was born and raised in Farmington, a town of 7,500 people in Franklin County.

“Janet Mills comes from the heart of Maine and I think that’s really important,” he said.


LePage was endorsed last year by Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who cruised to reelection in 2020 despite trailing in the polls and facing voter anger over her key vote putting Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Supreme Court. Collins said Kavanaugh assured her that Roe v. Wade was settled law, but Kavanaugh was part of the conservative majority that overturned the landmark case giving women a constitutional right to an abortion earlier this year – a decision that has animated Democrats and helped close the enthusiasm gap in what was expected to be a difficult midterm cycle.

In 2014, King made a high-profile endorsement of independent Eliot Cutler, whom he also endorsed in 2010. Once it became clear Cutler’s candidacy was not gaining traction in 2014, King switched his endorsement to the Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. LePage was elected governor in 2010 and went on to win reelection in 2014.

LePage adviser Brent Littlefield pointed to that record in a written statement on behalf of the campaign.

“Angus King’s endorsement history in governor’s elections includes endorsing recently arrested Eliot Cutler and flipping to failed candidate Michael Michaud. Based on King’s track record of endorsing Eliot Cutler and Mike Michaud, Paul LePage will be the next governor of Maine,” Littlefield said.

In a written statement, Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, described both King and Mills as progressive Democrats. “Left-wing Democrats endorse each other all the time, and birds of a feather flock together,” Savage said.

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