Will Angus King be the king of bipartisanship in the Senate? During his campaign, the popular former governor of Maine repeatedly promised he would help break partisan gridlock in Congress, a tall order considering Washington’s polarization drove away his predecessor, moderate Republican Olympia Snowe.
Mr. King refused to disclose which party he would caucus with during the campaign – he is the first independent elected to the Senate from Maine. After meeting with Senate leaders, he announced on Nov. 14 his choice to caucus with the Democrats. They said he could maintain his independence on issues and votes and still be included in the committee process.
“By associating myself with one side, I am not in automatic opposition to the other,” he said in a statement about his decision. “In the situation of a Republican House, a Democratic Senate but with substantial powers in the minority, and a Democratic president, no one party can control the outcome of our collective deliberations. As Bill Clinton might say, it’s just arithmetic.”
His decision served him well, as the leadership assigned him to four key committees: Armed Services, Intelligence, Budget, and Rules.
His gubernatorial track record suggests he may turn out to be a successful middleman. After being elected governor in 1993, King facilitated a deal between Democrats and Republicans after they failed to pass a state budget. A legacy from his second term (Mainers reelected King by 59 percent) includes a program that provided laptops to every seventh- and eighth-grade student in the state.
He ran for governor after successful careers in both the alternative energy industry and law. He also hosted a local television show, “Maine Watch,” on Maine public broadcasting for 20 years.
King left a lecturing position at Bowdoin College in Brunswick to reenter the political fray, but his popularity as governor laid the groundwork for his campaign victory.
King maintained a double-digit lead in the polls through most of the campaign. On Election Day, he earned 52.8 percent of the vote, compared with Republican Charlie Summer’s 30.7 percent and Democrat Cynthia Dill’s 13.2 percent.
Unconstrained by partisan issues, King’s campaign focused on the dysfunction of Congress. His campaign positions included supporting a “No Budget, No Pay Act,” filibuster reform, and campaign finance reform. He called his opponents to reject money from “super-PACs” and out-of-state donors.