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Senate awaits word from independent

Independent Sen.-elect Angus King of Maine said yesterday that he probably won’t keep people guessing long about which party he will align himself with.

The former two-term governor said he is trying to make a decision on which party to caucus with in time for the leadership votes both parties will hold today.

It’s widely assumed he will caucus with Democrats, especially after GOP and conservative SuperPACs spent millions of dollars to attack him during the campaign.

King, who will replace retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe, a prominent GOP centrist, is in orientation sessions for freshman lawmakers and has talked to both Democrats and Republicans.

He met with Snowe on Monday and followed yesterday with a courtesy call on Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins, another of the Senate’s moderates. Collins said she was glad to welcome a “fellow centrist” to the Senate.

“I’m here to get my orders,” King joked as he arrived at her office.

They have a longstanding relationship. During his governorship, King worked with Collins on issues important to Maine. The two are former rivals, as well. King beat Collins in the governor’s race in Maine in 1994.

“He beat me fair and square,” Collins said. “I’ve often said he was a very good governor.”

Added Collins, jokingly, “I’m sure he’s going to be a very good senator, as long as he does what I tell him to do.”

A day earlier, King called on Snowe, who dropped out of the Senate because of bipartisan gridlock, opening up the seat Republicans had hoped to continue to hold.

King said he chose to run because he wanted to serve as a bridge between the parties to try to build consensus.

Snowe offered some praise for his attitude.

“I believe his bipartisan approach is right on target and is what is required for the people of Maine, as it is critical for members of Congress to work across the aisle to address the enormous challenges facing the nation,” she said in a statement after his visit.

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