King picks up backing from Simpson of Simpson-Bowles

Independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King has received the endorsement of Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming who crafted the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan along with Democrat Erskine Bowles.

Bowles endorsed King in September, when the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton visited Maine to host a town hall with King focused on the national debt.

As a pair, Simpson and Bowles have endorsed only a handful of candidates this election cycle, and they’ve spread their support among Democrats and Republicans. The pair, for example, is supporting Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Bass of New Hampshire and Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

President Barack Obama appointed Simpson and Bowles in 2010 to lead the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and the pair turned out a plan that included a combination of spending cuts and tax revenue increases as part of a long-term debt reduction strategy.

King has said he doesn’t fully support the proposal but he’s said it’s a good starting point for a deficit reduction strategy. His Democratic rival, Cynthia Dill, has said she’s opposed to the Simpson-Bowles plan because of its proposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other programs. Republican Charlie Summers has said he opposes any deficit reduction plan that involves raising taxes.

The Simpson-Bowles plan was soundly rejected in the U.S. House and never came up for a vote in the Senate.

“We need people in Congress who can build bridges, encourage compromises, and actually make things happen for the sake of our nation’s future – not for their own election or re-election,” Simpson said in a statement. “King’s commitment to common sense and responsibility makes him the right person to serve the people of Maine.”

Since Congress rejected their plan, Simpson and Bowles have co-founded the Campaign to Fix the Debt in an attempt to put pressure on policymakers to bring the nation’s $16.2 trillion debt under control. Former political rivals John Baldacci, the former Democratic governor and Congressman, and Rick Bennett, the former Republican state Senate president and U.S. Senate candidate, jointly launched the Maine chapter of that effort last week.

Simpson’s endorsement for King follows a string of recent endorsements for the former governor.

King’s campaign on Monday said Bill Richardson, the Democratic former governor of New Mexico and former ambassador to the United Nations, was supporting King. And the United Steelworkers union announced its support for King over the weekend. That union has about 4,000 members in Maine, mostly working in the pulp and paper industry.