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US Senate: Can a Maine independent heal a broken Congress?

Independent former Gov. Angus King, who is running for the US Senate seat of disillusioned moderate Republican Olympia Snowe, hopes to play kingmaker in a divided Congress.

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Former Maine Gov. Angus King speaks during press conference in Brunswick, Maine, on June 13, a day after primary elections.

John Patriquin/Portland Press Herald/AP

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The man who would be king in a fractured Congress rips folksy one-liners in his campaign for US Senate as often as he stumps his post-partisan, moderate-middle speeches. 

On a poetic early summer morning overlooking the Penobscot River, Angus King doesn’t disappoint on either front.

“A guy came up to me recently and characterized my campaign…. He said, ‘By golly, Angus, I’ve always wanted to vote for none-of-the-above, and you’re it!’” King says to laughter and applause from four dozen supporters. “That’s sort of close, you know. This is an opportunity to say, ‘No, we’re tired of the way it’s going now, we’re tired of the blaming and the back-biting and all that kind of stuff. We want people to work together.’ ”

Mr. King ­– an independent two-term governor, alternative energy millionaire, and former public TV talk show host – wants to be heir to Sen. Olympia Snowe, the well-liked Republican who threw up her hands in disgust at Washington partisanship when she announced her retirement from Congress.

For now, the race is his to lose. The question is whether Maine’s sending an independent to the Senate would be just another example of the state’s quirky political traditions, or whether, in an era of hyper-partisanship and polarized voting, its electorate might actually be onto something.

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