He later went to work for William Hathaway, the Democrat who ousted entrenched Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith from her Senate seat. Hathaway's election in 1972 led to King's appointment to staff of the Senate Labor Committee.
With King's 2012 election, he returns to the national political stage — only on a different level. Then, he was refining policy. Now, he's in a position to shape policy in a much more polarized environment, said Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker.
Asked whether King will have any influence in Washington, Baker said, "Just ask Joe Lieberman," referring to the Connecticut independent who is retiring. "Independents have a huge impact."
Being independent wasn't always easy, but King made it work.
He walked into a state government on rocky fiscal ground in which cutbacks were required to keep the books balanced. But gradually, as the economy improved, state tax revenues poured in beyond anticipated levels.
King was involved in hydropower and energy conservation work before running for governor, and after serving got involved in wind power. He sold his stake in the wind company when he ran for Senate.
On the campaign trail, Democrat Elizabeth Warren told supporters she never envisioned jumping into the rough and tumble of electoral politics — let alone making the U.S. Senate the object of her first campaign.
Now the 63-year-old is preparing for the transition from the upper echelons of academia at Harvard Law School to the halls of Washington, where she will occupy the seat once held by Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Warren was born in Oklahoma City on what she has called "the ragged edge of the middle class." Her father sold carpeting and worked as a maintenance man and her mother answered phones at Sears. Her first job was waiting tables in her aunt's Mexican restaurant when she was 13.
She became a teacher after earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston in 1970. Six years later she earned a law degree from Rutgers University and began a career as a law professor, going on to become a pre-eminent expert in the fields of bankruptcy and commercial law.
She came to prominence nationally following the financial collapse of 2008, when she was tapped to serve as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which authorized the U.S. Treasury to spend $700 billion to stabilize the economy.
She pushed for the creation of a new federal agency to hold the nation's largest financial institutions accountable by protecting consumers from "tricks and traps" hidden in mortgages, credit cards and other products.
She then turned her sights on the U.S. Senate, announcing she would challenge Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who won a special election in 2010 to fill the seat left vacant by Kennedy's death.
The massively expensive race, the most costly in state history, turned harsh at times, with Brown charging that Warren had used her claims of Native American heritage to help her academic career.
The two remained neck and neck in public opinion polls until Election Day, when voters handed Warren a 54 percent to 46 percent margin over Brown, making her the first woman in Massachusetts elected to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Republican Deb Fischer's rise from little-known rancher and state senator to Nebraska's U.S. senator-elect completes the deeply conservative state's move to full Republican domination — just one goal of the rock-ribbed conservative.
Fischer, 61, handed Democrat Bob Kerrey his first loss in Nebraska, handily defeating the former governor and two-term U.S. senator in a race that had been perceived as close.
Friends and political strategists have said Fischer's success was a combination of hard campaigning in some of Nebraska's most isolated hamlets, her appeal as a conservative rancher, and a flood of outside money that paid for relentless television ads attacking first her better-known and better-funded primary opponents, then Kerrey in the general election.