ME-SEN: Who are Maine Democrats supporting?

The Senate race in Maine this year is shaping up to be yet another twisted tale, with three candidates in the ring instead of the normal two. The GOP has put up (and heavily funded) Charlie Summers, who faces the unenviable task of trying to hold on to the seat currently filled by Olympia Snowe. The Democrats have nominated Cynthia Dill, and you’re to be forgiven if you take a moment here to ask…”who?” (Dill is a state senator and civil rights lawyer.) But both of them are butting heads with former Governor Angus King, a registered independent.

This is clearly a problem for both parties, because King seems to be a perennial favorite in Maine, having won reelection to the Governor’s mansion with one of the highest margins in the state’s history. He’s also nearly 70 years old and some observers seem to be surprised that he decided to jump back onto the battlefield at this late stage.

But the Democrats have more problems. The DSCC is pumping money into the race, but nobody is precisely sure who they are supporting. In fact, their own candidate seems to be feeling pretty darned unappreciated lately.

Maine Democratic Senate hopeful Cynthia Dill has essentially had to sing “I’m still here” to the DSCC as independent candidate Angus King remains in the lead (and national Democrats seem to assume he’ll tilt their way in the Senate should he win).

So it was surprising to see this column from Maine Democratic Party chairman Ben Grant in the Portland Press Herald that raises the eyebrow pretty high as to whether King actually will caucus with Democrats if elected, in a pushback piece against calls for Dill to step aside. At minimum it is a different message than the no-explicit-endorsement one coming from national Democrats about their own candidate, in a race where Republicans and outside groups are making a major play on behalf of Republican Charlie Summers

So at least some of the Democrats have actually been calling for Dill to step aside and clear the path for King to defeat Summers – a call being widely panned in some quarters – because they’re assuming that King will caucus with their side. But would he? The only thing I see in his bio which hints at party affiliation is that he worked as a legislative assistant to a Democratic Senator in the seventies.

But no matter which way this particular wind ends up blowing, losing this seat is another blow the GOP doesn’t need in a cycle where they’re struggling to retake the Senate. Angus King is turning out to be a serious fly in the ointment.

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