February 29, 2012

Snowe decision rocks political landscape

Sen. Snowe stuns Maine and the political world, saying she’s tired of partisanship and won’t run again.

By Jonathan Riskind jriskind@mainetoday.com
Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe rocked the political landscape Tuesday with a stunning announcement that she won't run again, drawing the curtain on a storied political career and staggering Republican hopes to recapture a Senate majority.

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In Olympia Snowe's words: “I have no doubt I would have won re-election. ... I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”

The Associated Press

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Snowe, who has represented Maine in Congress since 1978, said she no longer wanted to serve in an increasingly partisan and polarized Senate.

"As I have long said, what motivates me is producing results for those who have entrusted me to be their voice and their champion," Snowe said in a prepared statement. "I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions."

A political moderate, Snowe backs abortion rights and often drew fire from GOP conservatives for casting key votes that helped Democrats pass major legislation.

She was the only Republican on the influential Senate Finance Committee to vote in favor of President Obama's health care reform bill in 2009. Although she wound up voting against it on the Senate floor, many conservatives blame her for the legislation becoming law in 2010.

Obama issued a statement Tuesday night saying that "from her unwavering support for our troops, to her efforts to reform Wall Street, to fighting for Maine's small businesses, Senator Snowe's career demonstrates how much can be accomplished when leaders from both parties come together to do the right thing for the American people."

The president also lauded Snowe, who turned 65 on Feb. 21, for being the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress.

Snowe was one of just three Republican senators, including fellow Maine Republican Susan Collins, to help Democrats pass the 2010 financial regulatory overhaul bill. She and Collins just last week were rated the two least conservative GOP senators for 2011 by National Journal.

Collins said in a prepared statement that she was "absolutely devastated to learn that Olympia has decided not to seek re-election to the United States Senate. Truly, there is no one who works harder on behalf of Maine and our nation."

Snowe did not return calls Tuesday seeking additional comment.

Her move stunned top Republican Senate leaders, as well as Snowe's own campaign staff, who said they learned of the senator's decision shortly before it was announced.

Snowe had stockpiled nearly $3.4 million in her campaign war chest as of Dec. 31, led by 40 points in internal GOP polls and won in 2006 with 74 percent of the vote.

Her decision not to seek a fourth term set off a political frenzy both in Washington and Maine political circles.

In Washington, national GOP leaders and independent analysts had considered Snowe's seat safely in Republican hands as the GOP aimed to topple Democrats' 53-seat Senate majority.

"It gives Democrats another target," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington. "It certainly makes getting to 51 seats a little harder for Republicans. The game is not over. It just isn't what they needed."

Snowe's Maine political career has spanned 33 years, beginning in 1973 when she was elected to the Maine House. She went on to the Maine Senate and then the U.S. House in 1978 before being elected to the Senate in 1994.

Her life has included tragedy along with political success.

(Continued on page 2)

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Snowe retires

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