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SKOWHEGAN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- In a milestone of Maine political history, U.S. Senator Angus King, an independent, has formally endorsed Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in her bid for a fourth term. King made the endorsement very publicly with a press conference at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan on Friday.

Collins told reporters that King approached her and said he wanted to give the endorsement. Collins praised King, and said he has "become a real player " in the Senate in less than a year and a half in office.

What made the endorsement most unusual was the fact it was done so publicly, and that King and Collins are not in the same party. Collins had been supported by former GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe in her previous elections, but not in as public a manner. Collins' Chief of Staff Steve Abbott said he could not recall another situation in modern Maine history where one of the State's two Senators had provided this sort of endorsement of the other.

King and Collins were opponents in the 1994 race for Governor, and King has also sided with Democrats many times since being elected to the Senate. However, King said he admires the way Collins does her job as Senator, praised her questioning, decision-making and willingness to cross party lines or challenge the Senate leadership when necessary.

Collins' opponent, Democrat Shenna Bellows, said she expected King would endorse Collins, and suggested it won't have an impact on the race. Bellows says she is building more name recognition and support "every day".

King currently caucuses with Senate Democrats, giving them one more vote to establish them as the majority party. King told reporters, as he has before, that he will wait until after the election to decide who he will caucus with for the coming two years, and decide on the basis of "what is best for Maine".

King said he hasn't decided yet if he will endorse anyone in the race for Governor of Maine. Four years ago, he provided a last-minute endorsement of Eliot Cutler.

However, King did show bipartisanship with another endorsement on Friday. After supporting Collins, he travelled to New Hampshire to endorse Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in her own re-election bid.

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