United States Senator Angus King is a popular politician in Maine and has become an important figure in Senate politics. As an Independent, he has successfully portrayed himself as standing above the partisan fray. Despite his liberal leanings, establishment Democrats have a troubled relationship with liberal Independents in Maine.
In 1993, Senator King abandoned his lifelong Democratic Party registration and ran as an Independent, edging the Democratic candidate a year later by a percentage point. Four years later, he would easily win re-election 59-19% over Republican James Longley, Jr.
Because of his overwhelming popularity in Maine politics and among apolitical Mainers in general, his Senate candidacy in 2012 was seen as an easy win. In the end, he would take 51% of the vote and leaving the partisan opponents behind him.
As a United States Senator, he has caucused with Democrats and showcased his liberal leanings. Despite being a registered Independent, he has been a ready and willing ally of the Democratic Party.
Republicans have a lot to gain in 2018 by defeating Senator King, but they have a lot to lose in trying. Given Senator King’s popularity, any candidate will have to overcome a career politician with a legacy in Maine.
Enter State Senator Eric Brakey.
Senator Brakey is a fairly new name in Maine politics when compared to Senator King, who has spent decades in Maine in the legal field and in politics. This may not matter in the shifting political winds of Maine politics.
In last year’s presidential race, the electoral votes were split with the second congressional district giving one vote to President Donald Trump. This comes as Republican Governor Paul LePage, who was first elected several years ago as part of the Tea Party wave, wraps up his second term.
Senator Brakey, who was born in Cleveland and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, came to Maine in 2011 as part of the Ron Paul presidential campaign. He would help lead the wave that would overcome the Maine Republican Party and lead to a delegation fight in the final days of the presidential race. He was a central figure in the negotiations that eventually ended led to half of the duly elected delegates being replaced by more mainstream Republicans.
As a State Senator, he flexed his grassroots strength and fundraising ability with significant support from both within his district and from outside the state, being elected twice so far.
Will this all be enough to run a successful challenge against a longtime Independent politician who has never lost an election? It’s early to tell. Senator Brakey had his detractors early on in his State Senate race and overcame them, though former State Senator John Cleveland is hardly comparable to the status of Senator Angus King.
If Senator Eric Brakey can win, it gives Republicans another vote in the United States Senate. Given the difficulty President Trump is having in enacting his policies through Congress at this point, having Senator Brakey in place to help could be a significant gain for the Administration.