Instead of seeking Democratic backing for his U.S. Senate race, Portland construction company owner Benjamin Pollard said Friday he plans to run as an independent.

“Given the serious divergences between my policy positions and those of the Democratic Party platform, I believe that my campaign will have more appeal to voters in the general election than it would have with voters in the Democratic primary,” he said in a prepared statement.

Pollard’s decision clears the field for educator Zak Ringelstein, the only remaining Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. Angus King, a first-term independent who is seeking re-election. On the Republican side in the race, state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn is trying to fend off a last-minute challenge from Max Linn of Bar Harbor.

King is among the most popular senators in America, routinely getting a thumbs-up from three of five Maine voters in the quarterly Morning Consult polls.

Though many Democrats are openly or quietly supporting former governor King, Ringelstein is rounding up some endorsements from Maine Democratic legislators. More than a dozen Democrats in the Legislature threw their support to Ringelstein this week, including Rep. James Handy, D-Lewiston.

Pollard said leaving the party of his hero, assassinated 1968 presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, was “a difficult decision,” but a necessary one.

“We are sorry to see Ben leave, especially since we recognize that Democrats espouse a wide range of views on different issues and work hard every day to build a broad coalition of people who are welcome within the party,” said Katie Mae Simpson, the executive director of the Maine Democratic Party.

Pollard said the party told him that local party officials holding caucus meetings Sunday would not help gather signatures for his petition to get on the ballot, a move, he said, that reinforced his doubts about the party.

Simpson said the party told caucus organizers not to collect signatures because they have so much else to do that trying to witness signature gathering for so many candidates would prove too burdensome. State law requires every signature be witnessed.

The party told candidates they were welcome to send their own representatives to gather signatures.

Pollard’s views on some issues differ from the Democratic mainstream, including his opposition to the party’s pro-choice platform on abortion.

To run as an independent, Pollard needs to collect 4,000 signatures by June 1. The general election is Nov. 6.

Steve Collins can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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