PORTLAND — Gov.-elect Angus King said Wednesday it was no coincidence that Maine voters had decided to support his candidacy and pass constitutional amendments limiting the terms of office for state and federal elected officeholders.
“The message last night was that people were tired of politics as usual and that’s what we were offering,” he said. “It’s a positive message and that’s what they were responding to from across the state.”
King, who will become the nation’s only independent governor when he is sworn into office on Jan. 10, won the state’s four-way gubernatorial race with 36 percent of the vote. He called a press conference Wednesday to announce that Dana M. Connors, the transportation commissioner in the administrations of Govs. John R. McKernan and Joseph E. Brennan, would head the transitional team assembled to scout out candidates for key posts in his administration. Connors is the incoming president of the Maine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Susan M. Collins conceded shortly before midnight Tuesday after receiving 23 percent of the vote, and Carter followed after picking up 7 percent of the balloting. Joseph E. Brennan, Maine’s Democratic two-term governor, hoped that heavy support in Portland and a few Democratic communities that had not reported their returns would carry him past King in a race that ran neck and neck all night long.
He conceded officially at 11 a.m. in Portland with 34 percent of the vote. It was his second consecutive loss in an attempt to regain the Blaine House.
“Now Maine people have said it’s someone else’s turn,” he said. “I accept your decision humbly and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you’ve given me and to my family over these years.”
Brennan said his most immediate plans include marriage to his fiancee, Connie LaPointe.
A multimillionaire, King said he perceives himself as “an ordinary” person who has stepped forward to undertake a job in state government that needed to be done. He said his election — and the expulsion of many Democratic incumbents across the country — supported his belief that people perceive politics as “an insiders’ game” for those who seek political office as a career.
“They’re saying that the idea of democracy is ordinary people going to the center of government and doing the service and going home,” he said. “That’s the message that I try to bring to this campaign and that’s the message that is reverberating across the country.”
With the political demise of veteran U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., and House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., King said the public reaction to entrenched legislators provides some lessons for Maine’s major political parties.
“The parties better learn that and if they don’t there is going to be a national movement in some way, shape or form that’s going to remind them of that,” he said. “The founders of this country never intended for politics to be a lifetime job.”
Meanwhile, some of Maine’s Republicans and Democrats predicted that an even split in the state Senate and a near-even division in the House of Representatives will make coalition-building difficult for King on the state budget and other issues. King disagreed, saying some newly elected legislators had already contacted him and pledged to work with him.
“I’ve got to provide the leadership to make it work,” he said. “The fallback plan is keep working at it because it will not serve Maine if the Legislature and I are engaged in some kind of battle. I don’t intend to let that happen.”