BRUNSWICK, Maine — Independent Senate candidate Angus King of Maine has a woman problem. He's not one.

The popular former governor is the undisputed front-runner in the campaign to replace retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, the state's most powerful female voice in a generation.

But beneath the 68-year-old businessman's popularity is a stark political reality: For many Maine women, King is not their first choice. And this election, perhaps more than any other, underscores the sometimes conflicting priorities for a Democratic Party struggling to beat back a Republican takeover of the Senate.

Democrats are betting big on women in elections across the nation. King needs to court them in Maine.

He's working against a proud local tradition that has sent a Maine woman to the Senate in seven of the last eight decades.