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Senator-elect King Remains Mum on Party Caucus Plans
11/07/2012   Reported By: Susan Sharon

Maine's Senator-elect Angus King's cell phone is crammed with messages.  He's making the rounds on network news outlets and planning a trip to Washington next week to meet with party leaders.  Still, King is not divulging the answer to the question he's most often asked by reporters and political insiders:   Which party will he caucus with when he gets to Capitol Hill? It's a crucial decision for getting committee assignments and developing a strategy to work across the aisle.  Susan Sharon has more. 

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Originally Aired: 11/7/2012 5:30 PM

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Maine U.S. Senator-elect Angus King greets supporters this morning after winning yesterday's six-way race.

In his first news conference as a Senator-elect,  Angus King reiterated what he said on his historic election night:  that Maine sent a message to the rest of the country.

"And the message that Maine sent was that, 'We're tired of the fighting, we're tired of the bickering, we're tired of the blaming. We're tired of the who-wins-and-who-loses, and we want some problems solved,'" King says.

King says he's especially gratified that, as an independent candidate in a six-way race, he got more than 50 percent of the vote.  But now he has to roll up his sleeves.  When he met with shipyard workers at Bath Iron Works early Wednesday, morning King says their concerns echoed what he's been hearing all along the campaign trail.

"Go down there and get 'em to talk to each other, get 'em to work together, get 'em to make some decisions," he says. "The country's in trouble.  We need people to start talking to each other.  That's been my message from the very beginning and it remains so this morning."

King plans to meet with Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to get their advice about consensus building and working in the center.  And, King says, he's already received a call from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asking him to do one thing:  call Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and find out how they were treated as independent members of the Democratic caucus. 

King says he'll make his decision based on what is in the best interest of Maine and how best he can maintain his independence.  With Democrats holding a slight lead over Republicans, King won't be the deciding vote in the Senate.  But Maine GOP political consultant Dan Demeritt says he could still play a key role.

"Being right there in the middle of the mix, Senator-elect King is going to have a real opportunity to have an impact on issues as they come up, one issue after another," he says.

Speaking on MPBN's Maine Calling Wednesday, Demeritt says if King takes a page out of Repubican Sen. Collins' playbook, he'll see that some of the best work is done in committees.  But those assignments could depend on which party King chooses to caucus with. 

"I think it's most likely, indeed very likely, that he will choose to caucus with the Democrats," says Mike Cuzzi, a former campaign aide to President Barack Obama.  Cuzzi also appeared on Wednesday's Maine Calling.

"This is a candidate who supported the reelection of Barack Obama, who supports the president's Affordable Care Act, who is deeply passionate about environmental issues," Cuzzi says. "It's very hard to see why he would want to caucus with Repubicans, who appear not to share his values."

Sen. Collins also says she expects King to caucus with Democrats.  She says Democratic Leader Harry Reid has been talking about King as if he does too.  And she's puzzled about why King hasn't made his choice clear.

"I respect the fact that he wants to talk to leaders on both sides of the aisle," Collins says. "I would be shocked if he chose to caucus with the Republicans but we would certainly welcome him into the caucus with open arms."

Collins says Republicans will also welcome King's willingness to work with them on budget issues.  King says he'd be interested in serving on the Finance, and Armed Services Committees.

Photo by Susan Sharon.


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