A Guide to Independent U.S. Senators: Which States Have Them?


The United States Senate is often dominated by political parties, but there are a few rare individuals who have chosen to operate independently of any particular party. These senators function as mavericks, unfettered by loyalty to a particular party and free to vote in ways that may not fall within party lines. These independent senators have made significant impacts on U.S. politics over the years.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive list and background of the independent senators in the United States. We will analyze the numbers of independent senators in U.S. history, compare them to those from different political parties, and examine the details of each state with independent senator(s). Finally, we will discuss the political trends and potential reasons behind the rise of independent senators in the nation.

A Guide to Independent U.S. Senators: Which States Have Them?

An independent senator in the United States is a senator who is not affiliated with any political party or caucus. They are not bound by the party line and make decisions based solely on their beliefs and values. Currently, there are two independent senators serving in Congress: Angus King from Maine, and Bernie Sanders from Vermont. Both senators had run as Democrats but later elected to serve as independents.

Angus King

Angus King was first elected to the Senate in 2012 and re-elected in 2018. Born in Alexandria, Virginia, King attended Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia School of Law. He started his career as an attorney and then became a consultant in the field of energy conservation. King was elected the Governor of Maine as an unaffiliated candidate in 1994 and re-elected in 1998, serving two terms.

King votes with the Democrats and is ideologically closer to them. He supports abortion rights, gun control legislation, Medicare for All, and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders was first elected to the Senate in 2006 and re-elected in 2012, 2018, and 2020. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Sanders attended the University of Chicago and then moved to Vermont in the early ’70s, where he worked as a carpenter and filmmaker. He was first elected to Congress as the representative of Vermont’s at-large district in 1990 and was re-elected three times, serving in the House of Representatives until 2007.

Sanders is an independent but is ideologically closer to the Democrats. He identifies as a democratic socialist, supports universal healthcare, climate action, and free public college. 

Breaking Down the Numbers: Exploring Independent Senators in the United States

In the history of the U.S. Senate, there have been 25 independent senators who have served at least one term. Of these, only four have served more than one term: David Davis of Illinois, George Norris of Nebraska, Harlan Stone of New York, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

In terms of the total number of senators, independent senators are relatively scarce. Currently, with two independent senators out of a total of 100, independent senators represent only 2% of the Senate.

Comparison with Other Political Parties

While independent senators have been considerably less successful than their counterparts in the two major political parties, they have outstripped the performances of other minor parties. To date, only one representative from a minor party (Theodor Bilbo from Mississippi) has been elected to the U.S. Senate, while 50 senators have been elected as members of a third party or who have switched parties.

Beyond Political Parties: Which States Have Independent Senators Representing Them in Congress?

Currently, Vermont and Maine are the only states with independent senators. Maine’s Angus King was the first independent senator elected in more than a decade. Vermont, on the other hand, has a unique role in the independent senator tradition. The state’s former senator Jim Jeffords was first elected as a Republican and later declared himself an independent and caucused with the Democrats.

Exploration of Each State with Independent Senator(s)


Maine has a strong independent leaning culture, with over 40% of registered voters not affiliated with either party. Angus King’s background as an unaffiliated Governor appealed to Maine voters. Independent voters played a crucial role in putting King in the Senate in 2012. As a senator, King has focused on issues like job creation, energy independence, and alternative energy sources.


Vermont has a reputation for being politically liberal, which made Jeffords’ and Sanders’ transition to independent senators viable. Sanders has been known to caucus with the Democrats in the Senate and has become a leading voice for progressive politics in the country. Vermont emphasizes issues such as comprehensive healthcare, social welfare, environmental protection, and economic justice.

The Rise of Independent Senators: Examining the Trends Across the Nation

While independent senators are few and far between, there has been a recent surge in the number of independent candidates running for office. There were several independent candidates running for the Senate in 2020, and a few came close to winning, including Al Gross in Alaska and Lisa Savage in Maine.

One of the primary reasons for the rise in independent senators is growing disillusionment with political parties and polarization. The two major parties have become increasingly polarized, leaving many voters feeling like neither party represents their interests or values. Independent senators, on the other hand, are seen as more authentic and able to represent their constituents’ interests without the constraints of party loyalty.

Taking a Closer Look: A State-by-State Comparison of Independent Senators in the U.S.


Florida is known for being a swing state, and voters have elected a varying mix of Democrats and Republicans in the past few decades. However, independent voters make up almost 30% of registered voters in the state. In 2010, Charlie Crist left the Republican Party and ran as an independent in the Senate election but lost to Marco Rubio. Crist later rejoined the Democrats and served as Governor from 2007-2011.


Kansas has a storied history of progressive politics and supporting independents. The state elected its first independent senator, George McGill, in 1913. In 2014, Greg Orman ran as an independent and caused a stir by nearly defeating the incumbent Pat Roberts. However, Orman lost with 43% of the vote. Orman cited a desire to unite the parties as his motivation for running as an independent.


In 2006, Connecticut elected Joe Lieberman as an independent senator. Lieberman had been a Democrat for most of his career before losing his party’s primary to Ned Lamont. He ran as an independent and won the general election, making him one of the most notable independent senators in recent years. Lieberman caucused with the Democrats but was known for being more conservative on several issues, including foreign policy.


Alaska has a history of electing independents to office, notably former Governor Bill Walker. In 2020, Dr. Al Gross ran as an independent and had considerable support from Democrats. Gross supported several Democratic policies but was ultimately defeated by incumbent Republican Senator Dan Sullivan.


Independent senators are rare in the United States, but they are significant because they represent an alternative to the polarized political system that has resulted from the dominance of the two major political parties. They bring unique perspectives into the Senate and have the ability to vote and make decisions independently of party lines. This article has provided a comprehensive guide to the independent senators in the United States and has explored the trends and factors behind their rise in recent years. As the United States’ political climate evolves, it is possible that independent senators will play an increasingly influential role in shaping the nation’s policies and future.

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