Students in 11 STEM classes at Biddeford Middle School got the chance to chat with U.S. Sen. Angus King on Friday, Feb. 3. The  senator spoke about his role, and then took numerous questions from students. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — U.S. Sen, Angus King, I-Maine, is usually the person asking the questions, in hearings before the four Senate committees he is a member of conducts their business in the nation’s capital.

On Friday, the tables were turned as King was peppered with questions about his job by students in 11 classrooms of STEM students in grades 7 and 8 at Biddeford Middle School.

They asked the senator and former Maine governor about his job in Washington — how many hours a week he works, what sparked his interest in politics, the hardest part of the job, the pros and cons of serving in the U.S. Senate and more.

Student Thomas Rainey asked Sen. Angus King a question on Friday, Feb. 3 during King’s virtual visit with students at Biddeford Middle School. King teaches a politics and government class about once a month to various student bodies around Maine, virtually from his home in Brunswick. Tammy Wells Photo

King spoke online from his home in Brunswick. He picked up one of the two family cats that initially wandered into the Zoom session, his dog Maddy barked once, and he adjusted the camera so his wife Mary Herman could give the students a wave. Students listened and watched from their own classrooms, including those in teacher Coleen Hatt’s social studies classroom.

Seventh grade student Thomas Rainey asked King why he wanted to be a senator.

He told Rainey he was “done with politics” after serving two terms as Maine governor and was doing some teaching at Bowdoin and at Bates colleges. Then, in 2012, longtime Sen, Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, frustrated with what she had described as an “atmosphere of polarization,” announced she planned to retire.


“I thought that as an Independent I could help,” King told the students, and thought there were ways to build bridges that could bring senators together. “That’s what I tried to do,” he said. And while King said it was not always with great success, he told students that in the last couple of years, more had been accomplished than in the last 20.

King was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 and was re-elected in 2018. He told the students he serves on the Senate Armed Services, and Intelligence, Energy and Natural Resources committees, and just this past week joined the Veterans Affairs committee.

“A lot of my job is listening,” said King.

He has been conducting classes with students from grade school to college on politics and government for years, said his York County representative, Bonita Pothier.

Last month King spoke to students at Fryeburg Academy and in December, to students at Southern Maine Community College.

On Friday, Feb. 3, he spent about 10 minutes explaining what he does, and the next 35-40 answering questions.


He said one of the most difficult issues he has worked on was the Maine lobster regulatory pause, which he said was passed on the last day of the 2022 Congress — and had it not, it would have put 5,000 Maine lobster fishermen and women out of business, and impacted thousands more.

“It was a very close call,” he said. “We were all in it together” he said — including Sen. Susan Collins, Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden and Gov. Janet Mills.

The pause halts new rules on lobster fishermen and women until 2028 and in the meantime provides funding for development of gear that will reduce risk to endangered right whales and data to know where the whales are, King said in a news release. There have been no whale engagements in lobster gear in Maine in nearly 20 years, he said. The last was reported 2004; the whale survived.

Work surrounding the issue was intense, he told the students.

He estimated he works 50-60 hours a week, including his work in Washington and visits to businesses industries and municipalities across Maine.

One student asked King what sparked his interest in politics. He pointed out that he was raised in Alexandria, Virginia, close to Washington, D.C., and grew up talking about politics and government at the dinner table.


He went to law school, ran a business, got married and had children and ran for governor at age 50.

“I never thought I’d end up where I am,” he said, adding he believed his late start in politics was an advantage.

King said the Senate schedule is such that it is difficult to get to know and form relationships with colleagues. He told students the first scheduled vote is not until after 5 p.m. on a Monday and the last is about 1:30 p.m. on a Thursday, “and then everyone goes home.”

If he were in charge, he said he would change the schedule, so senators could work three weeks on and have one week off.

In response to a question, King said he believes being an Independent is an advantage. “I can do what I think is right,” he said.

After the event, Rainey said he did not think he would be the one chosen to ask King a question from Hatt’s classroom.

“It was really cool to be able to talk to the senator,” he said.

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