ORONO, Maine — At an event to announce his endorsement of state Sen. Emily Cain in her bid to win Maine’s 2nd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King re-enforced the Democratic candidate’s message that she can work across the aisle to get things done.
“We need people who will listen, who will talk, who will collaborate, who will stay at the table and who will solve problems. That’s what Emily has had a record of doing for the past 10 years in the state Legislature,” King said of Cain, who is running against Republican candidate and former State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin.
A press conference to announce the endorsement was held on Wednesday in front of Fogler Library at the University of Maine. About 50 people attended.
The message of Cain’s bipartisanship seemed to resonate with some students at the event.
“I really like that she crosses party lines to get things done,” said Mollie Shrunk, a sophomore. “She also stands by her beliefs.”
Having Maine’s independent senator on her side allows Cain to play up the bipartisan narrative, according to Mark Brewer, a political science professor at UMaine.
“She can add this King endorsement to that claim,” he said.
Cain repeatedly has emphasized her ability to put party politics aside, particularly to build and pass budgets.
That’s a claim that the only independent senator in the state Legislature supported.
“She truly is one of the most effective collaborators I’ve worked with,” said state Sen. Dick Woodbury, an independent from Yarmouth.
“I point to a personality that is so strongly positive and friendly and outgoing that you want to work with Emily and you want to accomplish things with Emily,” he said, when asked for examples of her bipartisan attitude in action. “I mean, it’s disarming in a way.”
Wednesday’s announcement rounds out King’s spectrum of endorsements in Maine. The first-term senator also has declared his support for independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler and Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who is running for re-election.
Brewer said that some benefits accrue to King as a result of the endorsements that do not fall along party lines.
“It allows him to strengthen the case that he really is this independently minded public official who is willing to work with members of both parties,” he said.
Brewer said King’s endorsement is unlikely to be the sole factor swaying any voter toward Cain but that the endorsement of a popular Maine politician can’t hurt.
A recent poll conducted by the Portland Press Herald showed that Cain and Poliquin are still both relatively unknown in Maine. Brewer said it’s voters who are unfamiliar with the candidates that could be influenced by a King endorsement.
The poll also had Poliquin leading with 40 percent of the vote to Cain’s 30 percent. Independent candidate Blaine Richardson held 3 percent of the vote.
Republicans said they were not surprised by Wednesday’s announcement.
“Sen. King caucuses with the Democrats and is a strong supporter of Barack Obama,” Maine Republican Party Chairman Richard Bennett said in a prepared statement. “His endorsement of a Democratic candidate for Congress should come as no surprise to Maine voters.”
Poliquin’s campaign manager, Matt Hudson, used the endorsement as an opportunity to attack both Cain and King on their support of the Affordable Care Act.
“Angus King and Emily Cain certainly have one thing in common and that is their support for Obamacare, which has cost thousands of Maine families their health insurance plans and denied senior citizens and families their choice of doctors,” Hudson said in a prepared statement.