Independents nationwide will surely be following the race for US Senate in Maine very closely this year. On Monday, the state's former Independent Governor Angus King announced that he will seek the office currently held by US Senator Olympia Snowe.
Snowe revealed last week that she would not seek re-election this year. Snowe explained the reasoning for her decision in an op-ed for the Washington Post, citing increasing political polarization and the Senate's increasing dysfunction under the conditions of today's two-party system as the primary grounds for her departure.
“In a politically diverse nation, only by finding that common ground can we achieve results for the common good. That is not happening today and, frankly, I do not see it happening in the near future,” wrote Snowe.
In his announcement, Angus King identified these same concerns as driving his campaign for Snowe's seat, lamenting Snowe's departure from the Senate.
“Now it’s about politics and getting ready for the next election. And you know what, instead of solving our nation’s problems, the best they could do was drive out an extraordinary woman, and that’s wrong,” said King.
King emphasized that as an Independent, his loyalty will lie with the people of Maine rather than the party machines. “Nobody will be able to tell me how to vote except for the people of Maine,” he stated.
Electing an Independent would send a strong message to both parties and the nation at large, he continued. “Frankly I might scare them. And that would be a good thing because Maine would be sending a message that if they don't get their act together, other states and other communities are going to be sending more people like me,” said King.
King served as governor of Maine from 1994 through 2002. In 1994, he received 35.4% of the vote in a tight four-way race, besting Democrat Joseph Brennan, Republican Susan Collins and Green Jonathan Carter. King was a popular governor and went on to win reelection in 1998 with nearly 59% support.
Independents have remained a fixture in the state's elections. In 2010, Independent candidate Eliot Cutler nearly won Maine's gubernatorial race, with 36.5% of the vote, coming in a close second behind Republican Paul LePage, who received 38% support.
Voters who refuse to identify with any party whatsoever constitute the single largest bloc of Maine's electorate at 36.5%, compared with 32.1% who are affiliated with the Democrats, 28% who are registered Republicans and 3% Green, according to the most recent numbers from the Secretary of the State.
If elected, King would be one of the only Independents in the Senate chamber of the US Congress, assuming Bernie Sanders is re-elected and no other Independent or third party candidate is elected to Senatorial office. Senator Joe Liebermann, Independent from Connecticut, announced in January that he would not seek re-election this year.
Though Independent voters make up roughly 40% of the American public, they account for less than .004% of the nation's representatives in Congress.