Democrats’ bid for Snowe seat runs into snag

Independent ex-governor eyes Senate

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PORTLAND, Maine | Popular former independent Maine governor and newly announced U.S. Senate candidate Angus King says he’s not beholden to political parties. He says nobody will be able to tell him how to vote “except for the people of Maine.”

Mr. King announced Monday night he’s running for the Senate seat left open after Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe’s surprise decision not to seek a fourth term. He made his announcement after delivering a lecture at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Just hours before, former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler endorsed his fellow independent.

Democrats had hopes of picking up the seat after Mrs. Snowe’s surprise announcement last week she was stepping down in a state where the party has a clear registration edge. But a three-way race involving the popular Mr. King could change the dynamic of the race.

Mr. King “would bring to the Senate the independence, the abilities, the reputation and the disposition that will make him a great senator, that will serve us Mainers well and make us proud every day, and that will begin to rebuild and restore the Senate to what it was intended to be, the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Mr. Cutler said.

Mr. King enjoyed high approval ratings when he served from 1995 to 2003. He regularly reached across both sides of the aisle, and his administration enjoyed budget surpluses at the height of the Internet boom.

Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, said that “things just got more interesting” in the Senate fight with Mr. King’s imminent entry.

Angus King is not your typical independent or third-party candidate. He left office being quite popular. He’s still quite popular today,” Mr. Brewer said. “He goes right to the top of the list, even though he doesn’t have the backing of the major parties and can’t tap party dollars.”

Scott D’Amboise, a conservative GOP candidate who’d worked for two years on his campaign, could be joined in the Republican primary by additional candidates such as Secretary of State Charles Summers, state Attorney General William Schneider, state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and former state Sen. Rick Bennett.

On the Democratic side, four candidates have announced they’re running, but some might make way for U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree or former Gov. John Baldacci, both of whom are considering the job.

While some had pressed for Mr. Cutler to run, he said he intends to continue working to restore the political center through organizations including “No Labels” and his “OneMaine.”

Mr. Cutler said it’s important to have an independent voice along the lines of Mrs. Snowe, among the most moderate members of the GOP Senate caucus..

“What made Olympia Snowe special was not that she is a woman or a Republican, sometimes in the majority and often in the minority, but that her vote was hers and hers alone. It wasn’t bound to one party or to one ideology. She called ‘em as she saw ‘em, and she worked hard to find compromise,” Mr. Cutler said in a statement.

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