SKOWHEGAN — U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said during tours Tuesday of manufacturing plants in Somerset County that the election cycle is so close this year that it could come down to who the next vice president is to break a tie in the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. vice president also serves as president of the Senate and can be called upon to cast a deciding vote if a bill is deadlocked, noted King, who is independent but caucuses with Democrats.

“It’s very close,” King said during a tour of Maine Stitching Specialties in Skowhegan. “It’s going to be close either way — one or two votes either way.”

Thirty-four of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. Republicans hold 54 Senate seats, while the Democrats have 44 seats. Two seats are held by independents, including King. “I’ll be one of the people in the middle, that’s for sure,” he said. “It may end up 50-50, and then whoever the vice president is will decide and cast a tie-breaking vote. That’s entirely possible.”

King declined to say much Tuesday about the continuing controversy involving Hillary Clinton’s emails, noting only that he didn’t think FBI Director James Comey’s recent actions were politically motivated.

“That’s not what I’m here to talk about,” King said.

Comey announced there were new emails in a letter to Congress on Friday, adding that the agency still was working to determine whether the emails were significant to the investigation of Clinton’s private email use when she was secretary of state. Comey previously had said the investigation had been completed earlier this summer and the FBI did not recommend any charges be filed against Clinton.

King toured Tuesday with two of his aides and with Heather Johnson, executive director of the Somerset Economic Development Corp.

The Somerset County tour included Tasman Leather in Hartland, Cousineau Wood Products in Anson and Maine Woods Pellet Co. in Athens.

The tours were meant to highlight made-in-Maine and made-in-USA products, while promoting the success of Maine manufacturers and showing how the revitalization of manufacturing in the state contributes to economic growth and development efforts across rural Maine.

Maine Stitching Specialties, owned by Bill and Julie Swain, is the manufacturer of premium custom draperies, window treatments, American and Maine state flags, and other textiles, including Dog Not Gone pet visibility vets for L.L. Bean. Last year, the company received a federal grant that supported their continued growth.

The couple bought the Dane Street factory early in 2015 and opened there in March of that year, moving the company from Kingfield, where it had outgrown its quarters. They went national with a contract with Wal-Mart earlier this year.

King viewed the manufacturing process at Maine Stitching, noting that some of the products include tick repellent safety dog vests and products that will be shipped to Florida to repel mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus.

“This is sort of manufacturing day in central Maine,” King said during the Skowhegan tour. “It’s about how we can help and what I can do to make it work and help manufacturing in high unemployment areas.”

King said he already has made some calls to a fellow Congressman in Florida about the mosquito repellent garments, some of which are designed for women. He said his office can also help with getting the Department of Defense to acquire Maine-made apparel and other products.

Other stops on King’s made-in-Maine tour Tuesday were:

• Tasman Leather Group, which was established in 2011 in Hartland, is a subsidiary of Tasman Industries Inc. and specializes in manufacturing premium-quality leather products. The tannery in Hartland is responsible for 100 percent of their “Made in USA” leathers.

• Cousineau Wood Products, Valley Road, Anson, is a manufacturer of wood products, focusing largely on the production of wooden gun stocks. With the assistance of a federal grant in 2015, the company was able to hire additional people and expand its product line.

• Maine Woods Pellet Co. is a state-of-the-art business that focuses on the efficient production of wood pellets for fuel. Their raw materials come from sustainable woodlands that are owned and managed by company partners who are certified master loggers, and from clean wood chips and sawdust from a network of sawmills.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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