U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, departs the chamber during votes at the Capitol in Washington on May 25, 2022. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.

AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Sen. Angus King looks ready to run for a third term that would make him Maine’s oldest-ever senator.

The independent benefited from a three-way split as an outsider in 1994 to become a popular governor who presided over half of the prosperous 1990s. After U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe retired in 2012, he more or less skated into her seat. While he has remained unenrolled, he is a reliable and outspoken member of the Democratic caucus.

When he won the governorship, he was 50 years old, which was older than many of the big-name politicians who rose to high federal offices in Maine before him. But it is looking like he is going to have a longer run at the top of state politics than some of them.

King is preparing to run for a third term in 2024 after saying in his campaign four years ago that it was likely his last race. Rumors about his plans to run have percolated behind the scenes for months, and he fueled them by telling Politico in October that he would likely make an announcement next year.

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His office effectively confirmed it on Wednesday: “Your sources are pretty good,” King spokesperson Matthew Felling wrote to a reporter in an email.

“Senator King feels great, has been an active driver in one of the most productive Congressional sessions in years, and he feels there is still plenty of work to be done,” Felling said. “I expect he’ll make an official announcement when campaign season kicks into gear next year.”

King is 78 now and would become Maine’s oldest-ever senator if he serves until March 2025, shortly after the election two years from now. By the end of a third term, he would be three months from his 87th birthday.

Despite that, he seems unlikely to see major competition from Republicans, who have long scoffed at his independent branding but have not been able to lay gloves on him since his political return. He beat then-state Sen. Eric Brakey   by 19 points in 2018 with a little-known progressive Democrat in the race who effectively had no party backing.

In the Senate, King is not as high-profile a member as Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who is in the mix on many major deals. He has carved out a defense portfolio as a member of the intelligence panel alongside Collins and was a frequent critic of former President Donald Trump, saying after the Capitol riots of Jan. 6, 2021, that the Cabinet   should consider removing him.

The gregarious King is also known as a talented retail politician comfortable both around fellow lawyers and at sportsmen’s events. King has shifted from a governor who at times played the parties against each other to   a mostly reliable Democratic vote in the Senate despite differences with party leaders, including when   he blocked President Joe Biden’s 2021 pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Over time, his politics seem to have tracked along with the left-of-center state he represents. His formula has put him alongside Gov. Janet Mills among the state’s most popular politicians. She led him narrowly in   a Digital Research Inc. poll of Maine released in November, but he hit 62 percent approval in fall 2020.

His decision has also been the subject of speculation about who would take over the prestigious seat if King stepped down, with allies of U.S. Rep. Jared Golden   recently putting him forward as a logical Democratic prospect for higher office if he wants it after winning a third term in the 2nd Congressional District.

King’s run could effectively freeze the top level of Maine politics in place until 2026, when Mills is term-limited and Collins would be up for a Maine-record sixth Senate term.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...