The Sun Journal believes Angus King is best-qualified to make a positive difference in the U.S. Senate and continue Maine’s long tradition of electing strong, independent senators.
Mainers remember King’s two terms as governor as a period of economic expansion, growth and progress, and King is the first to acknowledge he benefited from a strong national economy for most of his two terms.
Still, he used his eight years to enact an impressive number of programs and changes that pointed the state in the right direction and benefit us to this day.
We invite voters to visit the websites of the candidates in this race. King’s long list of substantive achievements cannot be matched by his talented but less-experienced opponents.
“Bipartisanship” and “breaking the gridlock in Washington” are on every candidate’s lips these days, and King’s Republican and Democratic opponents do point to occasional examples of how they reached across the aisle in the Maine Legislature.
But King has a long and impressive record of pulling both sides together in Augusta to achieve large and sometimes contentious goals.
King made Maine the first state in the nation to equip middle school students with laptop computers.
Many people called the idea crazy at the time and King overcame strong opposition to enact the program.
The Internet and dot.com explosion of the past decade show that King’s laptop program was visionary and transformative. Now our own Auburn schools are proving that a new type of technology, the tablet computer, can engage the youngest students and help them learn quickly and at their own pace.
The future is clearly digital, but King saw that well before other politicians.
King fought for and won a controversial requirement that educators who have contact with children be fingerprinted and their criminal backgrounds checked for sex offenses.
King was willing to stand up to Maine’s teacher unions, which lobbied hard against the requirement.
But, again, over the past decade we have seen background checks adopted for nearly everyone who works with children, from teachers right down to youth sports coaches.
Again, King showed not only backbone but vision.
King’s record on taxes and government spending have, we believe, been unfairly characterized by attack ads in this campaign.
In 1998, The Economist, which leans conservative on business and economic issues, said this about King: “(He) has exorcised the demons of partisan politics from New England’s largest state ... and has produced results: lower taxes, leaner government and a budget surplus.”
King reduced the state workforce and increased the “rainy day” fund from $6.4 million to $144 million before having to tap some of that money as the economy soured in the last years of his governership.
King reduced the state’s bonded indebtedness and reduced the actuarial liability of the state’s retirement system from 55 percent in 1995 to 32 percent in 2003.
King killed state property taxes on machinery and equipment, ending an illogical penalty on the investments that employ Mainers.
But beyond his record, we believe King has a combination of personal characteristics that will eventually make him another standout senator from Maine.
King, we believe, has a broad vision for a better American future. Rather than playing defensive special-interest politics, King has the independence and strength of character to stand apart, calmly analyze issues, reach logical conclusions and persuade others to join him.
King also has a likable combination of a folksy demeanor and a self-deprecating sense of humor that often makes others like, trust and follow him.
This newspaper endorsed Angus King for governor in 1994 against formidable opposition in an election he narrowly won. We endorsed him in 1998 when he ran for re-election.
We are even more firmly convinced today that Angus King is the best candidate to represent Maine in the U.S. Senate.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.