Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe is leaving the U.S. Senate after 18 years because she believes polarization and partisanship prevent Congress from addressing America’s most pressing problems. In choosing Snowe’s successor, Maine voters should acknowledge her assessment that, in its current state, Congress fails the American people because partisan politics inhibits effective governance at the federal level.
Former Gov. Angus King, an independent, is most qualified to carry on Maine’s tradition of common sense and moderation in the U.S. Senate. Without direct financial ties to either major political party, he offers the best hope for shifting the balance of power from elected officials indebted to political parties to more independent thinkers who are committed to consensus building.
King offers concrete suggestions for how to “nudge the institution of the Senate toward functionality.” His willingness to adapt his positions when new information becomes available would be a refreshing addition to the Senate. And his ability to extract good ideas from proposals — such as the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan — rather than adhering to the “all-or-nothing” approach so prevalent among congressional Democrats and Republicans would be a welcome step toward identifying the root causes of national problems and solving them through compromise.
Mixing reasonable budget cuts with a plan for sustainable growth, as King advocates, seems the most rational course toward long-term economic stability.
King’s eight years as an independent governor of Maine, from 1995 to 2003, provide him with valuable experience in fostering collaboration between Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
State government is a much smaller stage, and King benefited from a comparatively prosperous economy throughout most of his tenure as governor. However, his demonstrated ability to stand squarely between two powerful groups with opposing political agendas and achieve consensus would be a valuable attribute in today’s U.S. Senate.
While leading the state, King showed backbone by fighting for changes even when they weren’t popular, such as requiring all school employees to be fingerprinted. His Maine Learning Technology Initiative, a first-of-its-kind program to give laptop computers to all students and teachers in grades 7 through 12, showed vision.
His eight years as governor also equip King with a deeper understanding of the relationship between state and federal governments than any of his competitors on the ballot.
King’s chief rivals, Democrat Cynthia Dill and Republican Charlie Summers, have spent much of the campaign solidifying the allegiance of their party’s core constituencies. Both are dedicated public servants and exemplary standard bearers for their respective parties, but they do not have the same qualifications as King.
Independent candidates Danny Dalton, Andrew Ian Dodge and Steve Woods have occasionally enlivened the campaign dialogue with unconventional viewpoints. But those perspectives have not shown that any of the trio would make an effective senator.
Whether through force of personality, good timing or statesmanship, King brought Mainers together during his years as governor. That type of unifying presence is what Maine and the nation need.
We believe Angus King has the strength, integrity, intellect and experience to be a powerful advocate for change in the U.S. Senate. Maine voters should give him that chance.