BRUNSWICK, Maine — Many voters here, echoing sentiments expressed around the country, think Washington has been broken by extreme left- and right-wing partisanship. But unlike in the rest of the country, one man is riding high in the polls here by claiming that he’s got just the medicine to fix it.
“I’m non-ideological,” said Angus King, the former two-term governor of Maine who served as an independent and enjoys a sizable lead over the Republican and Democratic candidates in the race for the state’s open Senate seat.
Mr. King told The Washington Times in an interview that his goal is to come to Washington without boosting either party but instead to push for good ideas. The opportunity to do just that came earlier this year when Maine’s longtime Republican moderate, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, shocked voters by announcing she would retire, citing political “polarization” in Washington as a main reason.
“She said that, basically, ‘The system wasn’t working, and I’ve had it; I can’t get anything done,’” Mr. King said. “That provoked me to do this because I think the country’s in real trouble and I think a major contributor to the trouble is gridlock.”
“As an independent with a record as a governor, I’m in kind of a unique position in the country to be able to take a stab at doing this in a different way,” he said.
Maine Secretary of State Charles E. Summers, the Republican in the race, has made some gains in recent polls. But Mr. King has led from the get-go and the most recent Real Clear Politics average of polls puts him 15 points in front of Mr. Summers, with Democrat state Sen. Cynthia A. Dill an even more distant third.
A King victory would fit New England’s trend of bucking the two-party system. Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — who also is retiring — and Bernard Sanders of Vermont are both independents.
But both of them caucus with the Democrats, helping give the party effective majority control in the chamber and making Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, the majority leader and agenda-setter.
Mr. King, though, refuses to say which party he’d caucus with — and indeed, he says he’d like to try to stay outside the two party caucuses, if possible.
“If I can be on a committee and be an effective senator without it, that would be my preference,” he said.
Either way, he said to announce a caucus now would mean “I wouldn’t have any bargaining power.”
Some say his answer is obvious — he’s a pro-green-energy businessman who openly endorses President Obama for a second term.
He counters that he didn’t govern as a Democrat, saying that “85 to 90 percent of the bills I vetoed were Democratic bills.”
“I vetoed a minimum-wage bill,” Mr. King said, “and it drove the Democrats absolutely crazy, but I did because the data I saw said it wouldn’t help that many people and it might actually hurt us in terms of recruiting employers.”
The question is whether he can survive in Washington without backing one side or the other.