Former Independent Maine Gov. Angus King will be the next US Senator from the state, replacing retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.
King bested Republican candidate and Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Democratic nominee state Sen. Cynthia Dill, in a race called early on Tuesday night by major television networks and the AP. King had been hitting nearly 50 percent in opinion polls before Election Day.
“Tonight the people of Maine have said, ‘Enough. This far and no farther. We respect political differences, but we want to move a little closer to the center, to solutions … to mutual respect.’ That’s the message of today’s election,” King told supporters as reported by the Portland Press-Herald. “Today, we got a little closer.”
King was a popular governor that served as the state’s chief executive from 1995 to 2003, leaving office with high marks from voters that remained in place when he announced his run to for the Senate. Snowe’s retirement was unexpected, and left candidates from both parties scrambling to get in the race. Both members of Congress from Maine, Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, considered jumping in for the promotion to the upper chamber, but demurred when King entered the race.
That left little doubt to the final result, as the top-tier candidates from both parties essentially conceded that King would win the race.
But now that King has been elected, it invites a bit of procedural drama to the US Senate. King endorsed President Obama, but has made a point to not make a decision on which party he will caucus with in Washington, or whether he would caucus with a party at all.
Senate experts say that would severely hamper his ability to get plum committee assignments. But for now, King said he’s not worrying about it.
“I want to talk about how independent I can remain. My goal is to be as independent as I can be as long as I can be,” King said, according to the Press-Herald. “I also want to talk about whether there are some changes that can be made to the Senate rules so that the place can work better. … That’s what I’ve been hearing on the street for eight months - ‘go down there and get them to talk to each other.’”
Editor’s Note: Full disclosure: the author of this post, TPM polling editor Kyle Leighton, worked in Democratic politics in Maine earlier in his career.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.