Monday January 27, 2014 | 09:02 PM

WASHINGTON – Sen. Susan Collins on Monday paid tribute to one of her predecessors and role models, the late Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, on the 50th anniversary of Smith announcing a bid for the White House.

Smith announced her campaign on Jan. 27, 1964, during a speech in Washington. Smith was the first woman in history to have her name formally placed in nomination during the convention of one of the two major parties.

“On this milestone anniversary, I am honored to celebrate an extraordinary Maine woman who tried and failed in one endeavor but, in so doing, inspired generations of Americans with her strength and determination and demonstrated, as she once said, that a woman's place is everywhere,” Collins said.

As Collins noted during her flood speech on Monday, Smith did not accept any campaign contributions and only campaigned when the Senate was not in session. She finished second in the Illinois primary – and ahead of bigger names such as Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller – despite having spent only $85 in the state during two weekends of campaigning.

“It is intriguing to think what she could have done with a more traditional campaign,” Collins said.

Harry Goldwater would go on to win the Republican nomination but not before Smith received the votes of 27 delegates during the first balloting. Smith did not “release” those delegates to Goldwater, however, but  held onto them in recognition of the historic significance of a woman candidate receiving support at the convention.

Smith is best remembered for her “Declaration of Conscience” speech against the anti-communism campaign being run in Congress by Sen. Joseph McCarthy. She is the second-longest serving woman in U.S. Senate history and was the first woman to serve in both chambers of Congress. She died in 1995.

Collins said she first met Smith when while visiting Washington as part of a special program for high school students. Collins said Smith talked to her for nearly 2 hours about her service on the Armed Services Committee, job creation and her decision to take a stand against McCarthy during her 1950 speech.

She said she left feeling inspired and that “thinking women could do anything.”

“That message that I learned from Margaret Chase Smith was so important in shaping who I am today,” Collins said. “And although I did not know it at the time at all, that meeting with Margaret Chase Smith shortly after I had turned 18 as a high school senior taught me that I could achieve my dream. And in many ways it was the first step on a journey that led me to run for her seat in the United States Senate 25 years later.”

There are now 20 women serving in the Senate.

“I believe that would have made Senator Smith very proud,” Collins said.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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