By Scott Malone
BOSTON Nov 6 Former Maine Governor Angus King
won a three-way contest on Tuesday for the Senate seat that
Republican Olympia Snowe is vacating after a race in which he
ran as an Independent and promised to be a voice of moderation
in a polarized Congress.
King, a soft-spoken, motorcycle-riding resident of coastal
Brunswick, Maine, is known as fiscally conservative but socially
liberal, a common combination in rocky northern New England.
The outcome is a blow to Republican hopes of taking the
majority in the Senate.
A key question is whether King will caucus with Democrats or
Republicans in the U.S. Senate. He refused to say during the
campaign although most political analysts assume he will caucus
"It is my goal to be a bridge," King said on Twitter. "The
message of this election is that we are close and the people
want us to get closer."
The two independents in the current Senate, Bernie Sanders
of Vermont and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, both caucused
King beat Democratic state senator Cynthia Dill and
Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers to claim the seat.
His victory speaks both to high name recognition in a state
he led from 1995 through 2003 as well as a moderate streak in
Maine politics, one observer said.
"Once King decided to get in, the top-shelf Republicans and
Democrats read the tea leaves and said, 'This probably isn't the
best race for me to take,'" said Mark Brewer, an associate
professor of political science at the University of Maine.
"There is a long tradition in Maine of a pragmatic,
independent streak where partisanship takes a back seat to doing
the right thing and being able to work for solutions regardless
of partisanship, which has kind of fallen by the wayside in
parts of the country."
King's chance for the Senate opened up in February when
Snowe said she would be retiring from the Senate after 18 years,
having tired of what she described in March as "dysfunction and
political paralysis" in Washington.
King cited Snowe's frustration with partisan gridlock in
Washington as motivating his run as an independent.
Snowe was known as a centrist who often broke with her
party, and King's election could hold off a Republican effort to
capture a majority in the upper chamber of Congress.
Indeed, the national Democratic Party opted not to support
Dill, figuring King had a better chance of defeating Summers.