Independent Angus King said the very forces that drove Republican Olympia Snowe from the Senate "corrosive partisanship, congressional gridlock" are the same things that inspired him to jump back into politics.
The former two-term governor said that an independent can bridge the gap between the polarized parties and begin the process of getting the deadlocked Senate back on track.
"This is a huge problem for the country. If the system doesn't work, we never get to the pressing issues that must be addressed jobs, the debt, health care costs, energy, and more," he said.
The economy, he said, is the most pressing problem. To create an environment for growth, he said there's a need to address the nation's debt, boost natural gas drilling to lower energy costs in the short term, and bolster education and research and development, among other things.
"I know that while there is no silver bullet for economic development, there often is silver buckshot - many ideas and initiatives which added together will get us moving again," he said.
King, 68, hails from Alexandria, Va., attended Dartmouth College and holds a law degree from the University of Virginia. He moved to Maine to help low-income residents, and decided to put down roots.
He became a millionaire after creating and then selling Northeast Energy Management, which promoted energy conservation. After serving as governor, he became a partner in Independence Wind, which built a wind farm in western Maine.
Republican Charlie Summers has a wide-ranging resume. He's served in the Legislature, he's been small business owner, he worked for Sen. Olympia Snowe as her state director, served as regional administrator of the Small Business Administration and, as a Navy reservist, spent time in uniform in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Summers, who currently serves as secretary of state, said he'd liked to continue his public service as senator.
He said his top priorities are to cut spending and to reduce the national debt. He also wants to reduce government regulations "so that businesses large and small can thrive."
Unlike Angus King, who said the Senate is broken, Summers said the problem is a lack of leadership, not the Senate itself. "Angus talks about being an umpire or a referee," Summers said of King's vow to start the process of repairing the polarized Congress. "Umpires and referees don't win games. People who stand for something do."
Summers, 53, grew up in Kewanee, Ill., and attended community college and the University of Illinois before following his future wife to Maine, taking his first job as assistant manager of the Bangor Motor Inn. After his wife died unexpectedly in a car crash, he became a single father caring for his children and trying to make ends meet.
He said his life experiences allow him to relate to regular Mainers like "farmers, truck drivers, nurses and people who work at Wal-Mart" worry about mortgages and paying for college for their kids.
Now remarried and living in Scarborough, Summers said his experience as a single father made him understand the importance of Social Security, and he's vowed not to do anything to harm it.
In her eight years in politics, Democrat Cynthia Dill quickly climbed from her local town council to the state House of Representatives to the state Senate.
As the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, Dill describes herself as a working mom who's in tune with the needs of the nation's middle class. She said she'd be a breath of fresh air in the Senate, which she said has too many older rich white men and lacks diversity.
"The U.S. Senate needs more women, younger people, racial diversity in addition to moderates. Congress is completely out of touch with real life for most American families. I represent the new generation of leadership that will bring real and positive change to Washington," she said.
Dill, 47, said she wants to promote jobs that pay fair wages and an economy that can support Maine's working families and small businesses. She said she supports President Barack Obama's jobs bill, and his proposal to end tax cuts for millionaires and subsidies for big corporations. She also wants to cut defense spending, and reinvest some of money in education, research and development, and infrastructure projects.
She doesn't believe that Congress is broken, as independent Angus King does. Instead, she blames Republican extremists and the filibuster rule for the Senate's failure to get more done.
Born in Carmel, N.Y., Dill attended the University of Vermont and Boston's Northeastern University and now lives in Cape Elizabeth with her family.
Independent Danny Dalton has spent 25 years working for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department and State Department, giving him experience in agencies that account for roughly half of the discretionary spending portion of the federal budget.
Dalton, 56, doesn't like what he saw on the inside, and he is focusing his campaign on eliminating government waste and mismanagement. He's also concerned that federal agencies have dropped the ball when it comes to chasing down terrorists and dealing with drug warlords.
"We need to ask more from these agencies and spend less doing it. I'm not sure the other candidates know that these problems even exist," he said.
He also wants to reform the tax code by introducing a value-added tax, a consumption tax popular in Europe, and eliminating the corporate income tax, which he said is burdensome and full of loopholes. He also wants to fight big special interests, like the pharmaceutical industry and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
He said the killing of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, was another failure because the State Department didn't reallocate Marines to bolster security.
He moved to Brunswick several years ago to be closer to his children and grandchildren. He runs a toy-manufacturing operation and a retail store in Bath.
ANDREW IAN DODGE
Independent Andrew Ian Dodge, a tea party activist, libertarian, freelance writer and rocker, has enjoyed shaking up the Senate race with his presence on the ballot.
He said the biggest issue facing the country is government intrusion in people's lives, whether through agencies like Transportation Security Administration, laws like the Patriot Act, rules and regulations, and excessive taxes.
"We need to turn back from the brink. The economy will not grow as much as we need as a nation until we severely cut back the tentacles of government," said Dodge.
Dodge, 44, said the bailouts and federal stimulus were colossal failures and that companies of any size must be allowed to go bust. He said taxes and red tape need to be cut. "The U.S. government is too large and is attacking like a leech holding the nation back from prosperity," Dodge said.
The Dodge name runs deep in Maine, going back generations. But Dodge himself was born in New York City. He grew up in Britain and Florida and spent summers in Maine before attending Colby College, where he became active in College Republicans. He holds two political science degrees and writes about politics.
He now lives in Harpswell with his wife. When he's not campaigning or blogging about politics and music, he dabbles in rock `n' roll. He is a singer and lyricist in a band called "Growing Old Disgracefully."
Before dropping out of the race, independent Steve Woods was a contrarian when it came to whether or not the gridlocked Senate is broken.
While most people want to blame the institution and the major political parties for the Senate's failings, Woods said people should take a look in the mirror, saying people own the democracy, so it's the people who are the problem. One of his major campaign themes was the decay of democracy in Maine and across the United States, and the need for people to become engaged.
"As the owners of our democracy, we can no longer blame government as an institution, or our leaders, selected by ourselves, for the problems we face as Mainers and as Americans. Ultimately, the problem is us. And, until we focus on ourselves and our individual roles within this democracy, real change and better solutions will always be beyond our grasp," he said.
Woods, 53, is a business owner and town council chairman in Yarmouth. He owns six marketing companies that operate under the name TideSmart in Falmouth, outside of Portland.
Woods's campaign failed to gain traction and feels that he deserved greater consideration from the news media. He said his businesses have created nearly 100 jobs, and that he's familiar with "burdensome bureaucracy that in many cases serve as barriers, and not benefits to business."
Woods, 53, grew up in Needham, Mass. He lives in Yarmouth with his family.
On Saturday, during the final Senate debate before the election, he suspended his campaign and endorsed King, saying the two shared similar views.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)