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Maine Senator-Elect Angus King Vows to Help Break Washington Gridlock
11/07/2012   Reported By: Susan Sharon

As expected, former Independent Gov. Angus King easily won election to Maine's hotly contested, open U.S. Senate seat. His victory was so lopsided that the Associated Press, NPR, and other national news outlets called the race with only 1 percent of Maine precincts reporting. King, and even some of his opponents, say there are several lessons to be learned from this unusual race. And as Susan Sharon reports, the senator-elect hopes they'll create a ripple effect across the country.

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Just before 9:00 p.m., the sound of bagpipes suddenly filled a packed hotel ballroom in Freeport. A music video with scenes from King's campaign flashed across big-screen television monitors and Maine's senator-elect was officially announced by his campaign manager, Kay Rand.

"On behalf of all the staff of the Angus 2012 campaign, and on behalf of the great state of Maine, I give you Senator-elect Angus King!" she said, as the crowd roared.

King campaigned on a single theme: fixing a gridlocked, broken Congress by restoring civility and bipartisanship to Capitol Hill. It's the same gridlock that prompted Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe to retire in frustration.

Speaking to hundreds of supporters King says his mandate from the voters is clear: "To listen to the best solutions from every corner and help my colleagues to find common ground in that fertile mix. It's sitting right there in front of us and we're ready to walk across to get closer once again. Tonight, Maine has sent a really important lesson to the country: Tonight, we lead."

From his surprise entrance into the race in April, to his victory last night, King led in the polls by double digits and that never changed, despite $7 million worth of attack ads aimed by outside groups.

"As the campaign was hitting some hard times in September and our fundraising was sort of flat and the volunteers were tired, one person stepped forward and energized this campaign," King said. "He helped bring the volunteers to their feet, tremendous boost to our fundraising, and I really don't think we could have achieved what we achieved tonight without him. I refer, of course, to Karl Rove."

Karl Rove, of course, is the GOP strategist and founder of Crossroads GPS, which paid for a slew of television ads criticizing Angus King. Early on, Maine's open seat was seen by Republicans as one that they could win and possibly use to re-take control of the U.S. Senate.

But some Republicans, such as former state Rep. Jim Libby, got behind King. Libby says King won him over as governor with his student laptop initiative, the business equipment tax rebate program and his ability to reach across the aisle.

"I thought Angus King had great vision, and for me, somebody who's visionary is very appealing," Libby said. "And so regardless of party, this is a guy that's a true leader. We're gonna be very pleased to have him as a U.S. senator representing Maine."

Republican challenger Charlie Summers failed to win a public endorsement from Snowe, his former boss. And in his third run for Congress, Summers just couldn't close the deal. In conceding, Summers vowed to support King.

"We have a very difficult situation that this country faces and I think that it's critically important that we line up behind our representatives and make sure that they know they have support from me and all of us in Maine," Summers said.

Labor groups also backed King, who is largely perceived as being aligned with the Democratic Party's platform. And that spelled trouble for Democrat Cynthia Dill, who failed to win the backing of the National Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Dill says she's learned a lot from running a campaign on a shoe-string budget and meeting small groups of people in person. And she says politics is definitely in her future.

"It's the journey that counts, not the final destination and so I'm looking forward to future journeys," she said. "I've learned so much about Maine, about people, about campaigning. It's wonderful."

Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins issued a statement congratulating King on his victory and pledging to work with him. And retiring Senator Olympia Snowe offered some advice: "Hopefully he can corral others (with) like minded approaches in the United States Senate to work together because that's what it's going to require," she said. "Otherwise you can't get anything done. Sixty votes are necessary in the Senate to get anything done."

King has been coy about refusing to say which party he will caucus with if he's elected. And his first challenge as a senator in getting those 60 votes may well depend on how he plays that hand in the coming days.



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