BANGOR — Two former senators from Maine — one a Democrat, one a Republican — declared Friday independent U.S. Sen. Angus King deserves another six years in Washington because of his proven ability to fight for Maine with civility and a willingness to compromise.
Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who served as the Democrats’ majority leader, said the nation needs leaders such as King, who have vision, courage and common sense.
Mitchell’s one-time Senate colleague, Republican Bill Cohen, said King is one of the “notable exceptions” to the partisanship that has made it so difficult to get things done on Capitol Hill.
Speaking at Husson University, King said it is “sort of breathtaking” for him to receive the backing “of two of my political heroes.”
King faces challenges in the Nov. 6 general election from the GOP’s Eric Brakey, a state senator from Auburn, and Democrat Zak Ringelstein, an educator from Falmouth.
Mitchell and King spoke to a couple of dozen supporters who gathered for the announcement. Cohen, who is reportedly traveling overseas, appeared in a recorded video.
King and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who has represented Maine since 1997, are considered among a dwindling band of moderates who cannot be counted on to vote in lockstep with more partisan colleagues.
Cohen,a former secretary of defense, said King, who caucuses with the Democrats, “is willing to reach across the aisle and grasp the hand of someone he may disagree with politically, or philosophically, but say, ‘We have to reach common ground.’”
“If this country is going to move forward, if we’re going to do our jobs, we can’t simply plant our ideological flags in cement and refuse to bend,” Cohen said.
Mitchell said the nation is facing turmoil, fear and anxiety as it confronts a changing world. It is an environment, he said, that requires leaders with the sort of “solid, thoughtful judgment” that King embodies.
Mitchell, who served in the Senate from 1980 to 1995, said someone always pegs every election cycle as crucial. This time around, though, it “has never been truer” than the congressional choices Americans will make in November.
“We’re at a time when we have to listen to each other,” King said, because the only way to overcome the partisan divide that has roiled the country is to try to understand where people are coming from.
Brakey and Ringelstein have also picked up endorsements in recent days.
The Democratic Socialists of America backed Ringelstein for his “long history of standing up for the most vulnerable in our society.”
Brakey picked up the support of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who said his former campaign director in Maine is among “those who have proven themselves to be conservatives of conviction.”
Brakey also has the support of another U.S. senator, Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Among King’s other endorsements: Maine’s AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood and the Maine Education Association.
Three boys from Falmouth hold up green mustaches as they pose Friday with U.S. Sen. Angus King, left, and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell at Husson University in Bangor. The boys, from left, Alex Warner, Charlie Wolak and Colby Morse, came to see Mitchell’s endorsement of King’s re-election bid. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)