The suddenly riveting Maine Senate race got another jolt Monday night, with the announcement by former Gov. Angus King, an independent, that he is running.
“Frankly, I think I might scare (the parties), and that would be a good thing,” King told an audience of about 200 people at Bowdoin College in his hometown of Brunswick, the Portland Press Herald reported. “Nobody will be able to tell me how to vote, except the people of Maine.”
King’s candidacy alters the race’s still-evolving landscape, following the surprise announcement last week that moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe is retiring. It’s not yet clear how King’s entry would play out in a three-way race — or if it might turn into a de facto two-way race, if no major Democrat were to get in.
Given his background, it is widely assumed that King might be more friendly to Senate Democrats than Republicans. But if a strong Republican nominee could harness votes being cast for the GOP nominee for president in the fall, that candidate would stand a very strong chance of winning a three-way race — even as President Obama is favored to carry the state for the Democrats in the presidential election.
Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, who represents the Portland-based 1st District, has been eying the race but has not made a final decision. Pingree indicated in a statement following King’s announcement that she’s still unsure:
“This is an extremely important election and a lot is at stake, including the control of the U.S. Senate. While I have been humbled by the tremendous outpouring of support encouraging me to run, I’m going to continue thinking very carefully about whether or not I should enter this race, and will take all the factors into consideration before deciding how I can best serve the people of Maine.”
If Pingree were to still get in, though, her strong links to progressive groups could also make her a strong candidate — especially in the context of a presidential race, if she were to get a bump from motivated Obama supporters.
After earlier career stints in alternative energy, and as host of a statewide talk show on Maine public television, King was elected governor in 1994 as an independent, narrowly defeating Democratic former Gov. Joseph Brennan, and Republican Susan Collins. (Two years later, Collins rebounded from her third-place showing, and defeated Brennan in an open Senate race.) King was re-elected in a landslide in 1998, and left office with high approval ratings in 2002.