BRUNSWICK — Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King launched his re-election campaign before a crowd of supporters May 31 at 16 Station Ave.
King, who was elected in 2012, will likely have two challengers in November: Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey and Democrat Zak Ringlestein, who are uncontested June 12 in their party primaries.
The incumbent senator stressed the need for “bipartisan cooperation” in Washington, and said his reason for running again is “there’s plenty of work to be done.”
“This is not the time to walk away from the United States government,” King said. “This is a time when we need to continue to try to talk to people, to maintain civil discourse, to try to solve problems and to try to sort of calm some of the rhetoric that passes for political discourse in this country.”
There have been some improvements, however, to political gridlock in Washington, he added.
“It’s not back to what it was in the ‘70s,” he said. “It’s not what it was, but I can tell you there are little tender shoots of bipartisan cooperation, and that’s what we’re trying to encourage.”
Fighting the partisanship in the Senate, he added, is also what “provoked” him to run in 2012 after former Sen. Olympia Snowe decided not to run again that year.
In six years, he said, he did not “re-make the institution” – and didn’t expect to – but has “built good relationships on both sides of the aisle.”
King key issues he hopes to continue to focus on include increasing broadband access around the state, health care, fortifying Maine’s workforce, supporting veterans, and fighting the opioid crisis.
The senator called wider broadband access “one of the great unfinished stories in Maine” and “one of the most important infrastructure priorities.” Rebuilding the state’s rural economy, he added, depends on having broadband access everywhere, not just in large communities.
“We can become a state where people can work at home, but we’ve gotta have broadband connection in order to do so,” he said. “People say, ‘How can we retain young people?’ Well I’ll tell you how not to retain them: tell them ‘if you buy this house, you can never have broadband.'”
King said part of making improvements should include luring employees from outside of Maine.
“We have to bring people here from other places, whether it’s New Jersey, Iowa, Somalia, Ireland, or Syria,” he said.
He called the opioid crisis “the most serious public health crisis” he’s seen in his adult life, and stressed the need for adequate treatment options for Mainers struggling with substance use.
When asked if he would “solidify his advantage” and simplify the election by becoming a Democrat, King responded by saying that’s not who he is.
He also said that even if Republicans think of him “more on the Democratic side” because he caucuses with Democrats, they also listen to him and often come to him about bipartisan issues.
“I served eight years as governor as an independent, and I find that it’s a valuable place to be in Washington,” he said. “And frankly, I didn’t know when I went down how it would work, but I find it’s a valuable opportunity to try to talk to both sides.”
Independent U.S. Sen Angus King speaks to reporters in Brunswick May 31 following the announcement of his bid for re-election.
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, announces his re-election campaign May 31 in Brunswick.