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But looking at previous multicandidate statewide races in Maine, any opportunity for a GOP victory would appear to be premised on the Democrat pulling a significant vote share, and that seems to be a steep order.
Along with Summers, King will face state Sen. Cynthia Dill (D) and a few other Independent candidates on the ballot.
Outside Dill’s back-of-the-house law office in the coastal town of Cape Elizabeth, a breeze carries a hint of the ocean. Dill, 47, has the polish of a local elected official and is articulate in explaining her progressive stances on issues. She admits her path to victory is “somewhat steep,” but she says that for an independent-leaning state, she “represents the independence that Mainers are looking for.”
But asked on which issues she disagrees with the president, Dill flounders. After 20 seconds, she says, “I’m not sure I’m fully on board with the use of drones.”
National Democrats are staying out of the race for now, in no small part because they don’t see a path to victory for Dill.
They also expect King, a Democrat before he was governor, to caucus with them if he comes to Washington.
King says he is an Independent through and through. He insists that neither he nor his staff has made any guarantees about caucusing to anybody.
“No implicit promises, no explicit promises, no discussions,” he says. “This is the caucus equivalent of a Sherman statement.”
It’s tough to be a true Independent in an innately partisan body like the Senate and, when pressed, King acknowledges as much. He says he’ll choose a caucus if he has to be effective.
“I want to stay as independent as I can, as long as I can, up to, but not including, being ineffective,” King said. “I’m not gonna go down and hold a flag in the aisle and make a point. That wouldn’t be fair to Maine.”
And whom he caucuses with may well depend on what he is able to negotiate.
“If it’s 53 to 47, then they won’t be so interested in my vote and that’ll be one kind of negotiation,” King said. “If it’s 50 to 49 to 1, I could be in a pretty amazing position, and, I suspect, could negotiate a pretty good arrangement, respecting my desire to be independent.”
He may well get that chance.