A warm reception greeted Angus King, Maine’s Independent candidate for U.S. Senate, in the Memorial Union cafeteria on Thursday. King walked around the cafeteria, asking students about their lives and telling them stories of traveling long stretches of Route 1 by motorcycle.
Many students like King because of his MLTI laptop program. Students who went through the first version of the program are now in college and most seem to feel that the laptops helped them get there.
“I like the idea that he’s independent, because that’s where I’m at, too,” said one student after talking with King.
Earlier Thursday morning, King traveled to the University of Maine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation, where he started his campus tour.
A small group of adults and members of media gathered at a press conference to watch students. Also in attendance were Charlie Longo, a Bangor resident and local political leader; Jim Libby, chair and associate professor of the Department of Business Administration at Thomas College and a former Republican candidate for governor, endorse King; and Sen. Elizabeth Schneider, who represents Maine District 30.
Longo gave a rousing speech. His mother was a Portuguese immigrant who was the first in her family to go to college. His father didn’t make it past the eighth grade, but he still managed to provide for his family. Longo believes his family’s success is the epitome of the American Dream, but this dream is slipping away from today’s young people due to crippling student debt.
“We need a leader like King who recognizes that, if we want to get our economy moving again, we cannot allow people to graduate college with massive debts that they can’t pay off,” Longo said.
King, who spoke after the endorsement speeches, defined the problem of student debt and offered solutions.
“Right now, many people have what are called 401Ks, which is a retirement plan. Why not treat student loans like a 401K?” King asked. Instead of college students getting a 401K from their first employer, that employer would offer students a matching payment on their student loans.
After the speeches, some of the students who endorsed King stayed to chat with the event’s attendees.
Connor Boynton, a sophomore at the University of Maine, is disappointed by the ineffectiveness of the current U.S. Congress. Boynton believes that King will be a productive member of the Senate.
“I think Angus King is trustworthy because he’s an Independent. Senator Schneider is a Democrat. I’m a registered Republican. We all come around for Angus King because we want to get something done,” Boynton said.
After the press conference, King walked across campus to the Climate Change Institute. He stopped and chatted with students along the way.
At CCI, King and several professors discussed global warming. King told the professors, “I’m here to learn as much as [I am] to campaign.”
King believes that global warming is real, a viewpoint that some U.S. Senators do not appear to share. The professors believe that the dismissal of global warming is an entirely political creation, with no grounding in scientific fact.
“I don’t think we know a single climate scientist who even talks about [whether global warming is real.] I’d liken this to mathematicians who are working on string theory, and they stop and go back and wonder if two plus two equals four. I’m not kidding; it’s about that level,” one of the professors said.
King talked with Sudarshan Chawathe, an associate professor of computer science and a cooperating associate professor at CCI, about the 10 Green project, which calculates the air quality in any city on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best. The 10 Green project is currently online at www.10green.org, and it is releasing an iPhone app within a few weeks.
Not everyone was supportive of King.
“Angus is a corporate independent,” said Thomas Mooney, a master’s student in UMaine’s school of policy and international affairs. “Independence Wind went into small towns and ran around roughshod. I’ve been in communication with people who said he came in and said, ‘I’m kindly Independent Governor Angus King.’ With his folksy charm, ‘I’m not the big bad corporation.’ Well, he is the big bad corporation.”
Independence Wind is a small wind company that commercially installs wind turbines. Angus King co-founded Independence Wind, but sold his shares in the company shortly after announcing his candidacy. Independence Wind set up a wind farm in Roxbury, Maine.
Crystal Canney, spokeswoman for King’s campaign, said, “In terms of what Independence Wind has meant to Roxbury, we know that the project has had a positive impact for residents. Taxes have dropped by 59 percent, they get rebate checks for their electricity every year and, while there are some who were opposed to it then and now, it has received significant support from the Roxbury residents.”