May 25, 2012

Election 2012: Schneider known for strong resume, character

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

Fifth in a series profiling the candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Maine Republican Olympia Snowe.

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William Schneider greets Karen Harrison of Portland before a forum Thursday at Sable Oaks Marriott in South Portland.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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William Schneider


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER will answer your questions live online at at noon today.


PARTY: Republican

AGE: 53


FAMILY: Married (Barbara), one daughter (Julia, 16)

EDUCATION: Graduate of U.S. Military Academy at West Point, 1981, majored in engineering and computer science; law degree from University of Maine, 1993

OCCUPATION: Maine attorney general; owns family alpaca farm; former assistant U.S. attorney; retired U.S. Army captain and Green Beret

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Maine House of Representatives, 1998-2002; Assistant House Republican leader, 2000-2002; Maine attorney general, 2011-present


Do you support President Obama’s health care law? No

Do you support a balanced budget amendment? Yes

Would you support a tax increase for the wealthy? No, I support a flatter and fairer tax code

Would you vote to extend the nation’s debt limit? No, not unless tied to real spending reform

Do you support legalizing gay marriage? No

Do you support legal access to abortion? Yes

What should Congress be doing to create jobs and improve the economy? Congress must undertake regulatory and tax reform, and reduce federal spending. The role of government is to create a regulatory and policy environment that is conducive to job creation – one that once again allows our businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate, invest, grow and succeed. As a senator from Maine, I would also be committed to fighting for Maine’s traditional natural resource-based industries like farming, fishing and forestry


BUSINESS ISSUES: Schneider had an 82 percent pro-business voting record in 2000 and a 94 percent record in 2002, according to Maine Economic Research Institute scorecards.

LABOR ISSUES: Schneider voted pro-labor 10.5 percent of the time, according to the Maine AFL-CIO scorecard.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: Schneider had a 26 percent lifetime environmental voting record, according to the Maine Conservation Voters scorecard.


Bob Harmon, CEO of Norway Savings Bank; Les Otten, businessman and former candidate for governor; Joe Bruno, former House Republican leader; Rep. Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade


Maine Attorney General Bill Schneider has an impressive resume: champion rifle shooter, West Point graduate, Army special forces commander, drug prosecutor, state legislator, anti-terrorism coordinator, alpaca farmer.

What impresses many people more is how he has overcome an accident 27 years ago that broke his back and left him in a wheelchair.

Friends and former colleagues say Schneider's personal strength, as much as his resume, is the reason they called him when they heard that U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, would retire at the end of this year.

"I immediately thought of him," said Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, who hired Schneider as an intern prosecutor two decades ago.

Schneider, 53, is one of six Republican candidates for the party's nomination to succeed Snowe. The primary election will be held June 12.

Schneider's military and legal background is considered a strong platform for a U.S. Senate candidate. He also is a politician who is personally liked by his adversaries, as well as his allies.

Of the six candidates, he raised the second-largest sum of money in the first month of his campaign -- $40,095 in March, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

However, Schneider isn't as well-known as some of his opponents. He's not a natural self-promoter, and he isn't the kind of partisan firebrand who attracts attention in a crowded primary race.

"Campaigning is tough for Bill because he can't turn off the humble switch," said Joseph Bruno, who served with Schneider in the Maine Legislature and is his campaign treasurer. But, Bruno said, "he's done things in his life other people only think about."

Schneider grew up in rural upstate New York, where he was a two-time state champion on his high school rifle team. He also was a good student, and turned down an offer from MIT to go to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"He was a great cadet, a good person. Everybody liked him," said Ken Hamill, who was West Point's rifle team coach and became a lifelong friend of Schneider. "He was meant to be successful. He's got all of the attributes."

Schneider was chosen captain of the West Point team, became an NCAA All-America marksman and tried out for the Olympic shooting squad, though he didn't make the team.

As a young Army captain, he commanded a guard post 15 feet from the North Korean border. He later became a Green Beret, commanding a Special Forces Operational Detachment A, an A-Team, "a group of 12 of the best soldiers in the entire world," Schneider says.

With weapons, communications and medical experts, his team was trained to parachute behind enemy lines to train insurgent forces. There were no international wars in the mid-'80s, but Schneider, who speaks German and Russian, spent nine to 10 months a year deployed in Europe, working with foreign forces.

"We got to go around the world doing important national security missions," he said.

In 1985, while stationed on an Army base in Massachusetts, Schneider's military career ended abruptly. He was driving a van during Hurricane Gloria when the van hydroplaned and crashed. He suffered smashed vertebrae and lost the use of his legs.

He spent five months in the hospital, most of it flat on his back in a bed that automatically tilted him on his side every two hours so he wouldn't get bed sores.

Schneider speaks openly about the injury and being disabled, but doesn't bring it up unless he's asked. He says he still feels lucky, compared with some of the others who went through the military hospital.

(Continued on page 2)

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