Sunday, December 8, 2013
I first met Angus King on a very rainy day in December 1993 (well, I'd met him earlier as a guest on his TV show on public television, but he didn't remember). My life changed on that day.
He had a crazy idea that I should manage his campaign as an independent for governor of Maine. I'd never managed a campaign before. He didn't know it, but I had earlier thought about getting involved in a gubernatorial campaign and had met with more than six candidates of both parties. Meeting with Angus was very different. While I thought I was pretty proficient in several matters of public policy, he challenged my thinking in every area. Most candidates hoping to gain your support tend to agree with everything you say.
Still skeptical about my ability to manage a campaign and his ability to win, he gave me a draft copy of the first several chapters of a book he was writing, and I left without giving him an answer. The book hooked me -- his ideas were similar to mine but also provided some new perspective about topics I had already thought a lot about.
I told Angus I would accept the job before I told my husband. He learned about it when Angus and Mary called my home and told him how excited they were that we were both aboard the campaign.
Everyone knows how that campaign turned out. I never intended to join Angus in Augusta, having already made a commitment to another employer who had agreed to wait for me to finish what I am sure they believed to be a quixotic campaign. But I did end up joining the governor's office and stayed for the full eight years.
It flies by. It's exciting, it's painful, it's humbling, it's an ego boost -- but mostly it's a lot of responsibility. The burden doesn't feel unbearably heavy until you put it aside.
Now I've gone and done it again, but this time I at least made the decision with my husband.
Olympia Snowe's surprise announcement that she was resigning from the U.S. Senate caught everybody off guard and turned a lot of well-planned lives upside down.
Before the media began covering the fallout from here announcement, I began receiving emails wondering if Angus would consider a run. For the first two hours, I thought it was amusing. I emailed Angus to tell him that it was too late for him to run because I'd already given $100 to support the candidacy of Matt Dunlap. He wasn't sure that I was joking.
His initial reluctant declaration that he wouldn't rule out a run for the Senate turned into a solid dismissal of the idea quite often in the next four days. For a couple of days, I forecasted that he would not consider a run. I was not pushing him to run, knowing that his decision would disrupt my future, too.
It's been a personal gift over the past nine years to be out of the public arena, to work in relative obscurity, actually able to be involved in a project from its inception to its completion.
That kind of professional fulfillment eludes those who support public leaders because it's necessary to hop from issue to issue when they become complicated or controversial, rarely being part of the dream that led to their beginning and never being part of the ribbon cutting when they get worked out.
For King, it was tempting to rest on his laurels. He knew that as soon as he became a candidate, he'd be fodder for those who detest government and that his record would be scrutinized by those anxious to present it in as unpleasant a light as possible.
Obstacles that would have made the decision a simple one didn't exist. Angus and Mary's children are in college or heading there in the fall. They were both supportive of the candidacy. (His daughter was especially convinced that her father needed a project other than herself!)
His professional enterprises (teaching at Bowdoin, Independence Wind, Bernstein Shur, The Center for Digital Learning) were at places that could survive his lack of attention.
The biggest impediment was the analysis of whether he'd get caught up in the same level of frustration that led Snowe to resign.
Could an independent have an impact in a system rigidly operated by partisanship, a legislative body with an approval rating of 9 percent?
In the end, Angus decided that he had to try, forcing me to have that conversation with my husband. Consequently, this will be my last column. I'll miss it.
Kay Rand is former chief of staff for Maine independent Gov. Angus King and is campaign manager for King's independent run for the U.S. Senate.