Independent Maine Sen. Angus King, a member of the Democratic caucus, is backing a senior Senate Republican in his bid for re-election.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is not facing a significant challenge on Nov. 4, but the support from King is interesting considering the independent senator's potential role in a closely divided or tied Senate. King and Alexander are both members of the informal caucus of former governors.
The two senators are personally close, but Alexander also is a former Republican Conference chairman with close ties to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
"Senator Alexander is the kind of person who we absolutely need in the United States Senate. He is someone who listens, and who is interested in solving problems," King said in making the endorsement, which was first reported by The Associated Press in Nashville.
King was visiting Tennessee for an official event with Alexander that included a roundtable at Lipscomb University. The AP said the event was focused on efforts to make it easier to apply for federal student aid. The endorsement came after the formal event. Alexander, a former Education secretary, and Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet have led an effort to shorten the federal student aid form.
Alexander has a reputation as a dealmaker around the Capitol, and he worked with King and several other senators on a long-term fix to interest rates on student loans . But make no mistake about his party allegiance: Alexander is among the sharpest critics of how Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has run the Senate floor. He would figure to play a role in any negotiations over the balance of power in the event this election season results in a 50-50 Senate.
"As a conservative senator who focuses not just on making a speech but also getting a result, I am glad to have the support of an independent like Senator King who has a reputation of doing the same," Alexander said.
If other independent senators win election this fall, there's a chance they could team with King to change the dynamics of the chamber. The Senate's other independent, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, said Thursday it was predictably doubtful he would align with Republicans given his policy priorities.
Alexander's seat in Tennessee is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
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