Angus King, a former two-term Maine governor, has built a high-profile political career while shunning political labels and staking out a niche between the parties.
King says he hopes to be a bipartisan broker in the tradition of other centrist New England senators such as retiring Republican Olympia J. Snowe. My goal is to stay as independent as I can, King said A lecturer on leadership at Bowdoin College, known for touring the state on a Harley-Davidson, King says anecdotes serve as fuel for legislation and envisions his role as translator of ideas.
Although a determined independent, he likely will align with Democrats to lock in committee assignments. A stint as a Democratic committee aide for Sen. William Hathaway of Maine in the 1970s could lead him back to Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. He has an interest in following Snowe onto Commerce, Science and Transportation, and his experience in energy ventures could be a fit on Energy and Natural Resources or Environment and Public Works.
King, 68, cruised to victory over Democratic and Republican rivals, while touting his role as a potential swing vote. He urged rule changes to ease gridlock by cutting off lawmaker salaries if both chamber do not adopt a budget resolution by Oct. 1, and a mandate for a senator to be present on the floor to wage a filibuster. We have a lot of problems now. We can't solve them if the institution itself is broken, King said.
A supporter of the 2010 health care overhaul, King praised the budget framework suggested by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. He calls renewable energy incentives as part of a silver buckshot strategy for curbing foreign oil dependence.
King, who is a lawyer, divested his stake as a founding partner of Independence Wind in March 2012, after joining the Senate race. A House panel later criticized a $102 million federal energy loan guarantee for one of the company's projects as a wasteful subsidy. He defended the project as a viable venture that deserved federal support.
As governor, he cemented a 3-cent increase in the state gasoline tax, provided laptops for all middle school students and mandated fingerprints and background checks of school employees. The son of New Deal Democrat parents one a federal magistrate and the other a school teacher he recalls public school desegregation as a defining event in his youth in Alexandria, Va., in the 1950s.
King set a template for winning a three-way race in his 1994 gubernatorial run, defeating Democratic Gov. Joseph Brennan and Republican Susan Collins, now Maine's senior senator. Then a political novice, he stressed his diverse experiences as host of a statewide public television program, Maine Watch, and founder of an energy conservation company, Northeast Energy Management Inc.