With newly-elected Maine Senator Angus King's confirmation this morning that he's going to caucus with the Democrats (yay!), I thought I'd repost a diary I wrote earlier this year during the campaign:

I know very little about former Independent Governor and current Independent Senate Candidate Angus King of Maine. The only insight I have into who he is and what he believes comes from 13 years ago, when he helped pioneer (for good or for evil) the now-widespread practice of providing taxpayer-funded laptop computers to every public school student in the (district/county/state).

The Maine laptop initiative of 1999 gave Apple iBooks (the predecessor to the MacBook) to every high school student in the state, and was highly controversial at the time.

Here's an excerpt from an article about the initiative, from the L.A. Times in 2002:

In an interview last week as he prepares to leave office in January, Gov. King said he realized a fresh leadership approach was needed as he suffered through a soporific session at a national governors' conference three years ago. "Everybody was using the same formula: regulatory streamlining, tax cuts, investments in research and development," King said.

"I had this clear insight that we were trapped at being 37th in per capita income."

That same snowy winter of 1999, Maine woke up to a surprise budget surplus of more than $50 million. King decided to use the cash to help vault the state out of poverty by making it a leader in technology education.

"Dear Governor," fumed an e-mail that summarily arrived at his office: "We are a poor state. Let someone else lead."

"And we will stay a poor state," King responded, "unless we lead."

After a year of haggling, the state Legislature approved a $30-million endowment that staggers the initial apportionment of 36,000 laptops over two years. Foundation donations paid the difference for the $37-million contract with Apple Computer Inc.

This year's seventh-graders will use the current batch of machines again next year, in the eighth grade, while the incoming seventh-graders will receive new Apples.

An annual outlay of $15 million to $20 million -- out of the state's $1.8-billion school budget -- could keep the program going indefinitely, King said. He said that during a 15-hour special session Wednesday, in which lawmakers grappled with a $240-million budget shortfall, no one called for eliminating the laptop spending.

I've bold-faced the key points. Whatever else he may believe, King stood up for:

--Spending on public education
--Investing in technology infrastructure
--Recognizing that the way out of an economic doldrum is not to just slash, slash slash

In addition, according to Wikipedia:
King has called for the continuation of a tariff on imported athletic footwear and rejects discussing the potential removal of the tariff in trade talks with Vietnam, citing the potential loss of jobs at New Balance's Skowhegan and Madison factories, as New Balance is the only remaining domestic manufacturer of athletic footwear.

King opposes oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, believing the amount of oil is not worth the environmental risk of extracting it. He also believes that new developments in the energy field, such as fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline should be subject to "all appropriate environmental safeguards to protect the American people and the American land."

He opposes the creation of a Maine Woods National Park, believing local control is the best way to conserve land.

Government reform
King supports the principle of the No Budget, No Pay Act, to prevent members of Congress from being paid until a budget is passed, but would seek a requirement that any passed budget "works" and is not simply a bad budget passed to meet the requirement.

King supports reform of the Senate filibuster, noting that Senators are no longer required to stand on the floor and speak during a filibuster. He also points out that a 60-vote requirement to conduct business in the Senate was not included in the Constitution by the Framers.

Health issues
King supports the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He is also pro-choice on abortion.

Same-sex marriage
King supports same-sex marriage, stating that it is "necessary to provide couples and their families with equal protection under the law."

Folks, I don't think there's any cause for concern about a Joe Lieberman-style situation here. King sounds like he really is the opposite of a DINO...he seems to be a DIEBN (Democrat In Everything But Name).

To be honest, I find this rather refreshing and have no problem with it--it sounds like his positions are pretty solidly Democratic, but that he just really, truly doesn't like having the "D" label next to his name all the time, which I can respect.

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