Senator Olympia Snowe unexpectedly announced on Tuesday that she is retiring from the Senate. Along with her colleague Susan Collins, the two are known as the “Maine moderates” and have both consistently won re-election as Republicans in a Democratic state. She cited increased partisanship as her main reason for retiring: “I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate.”
President Obama commended Senator Snowe for her service. “For nearly four decades, Olympia Snowe has served the people of the great state of Maine. Elected to the state House in 1973, Olympia went on to be the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress. 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.”
Snowe is one of the few Republicans that have been willing to cross the aisle and join Democrats on legislation during the Obama years. She supported the stimulus package as well as the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. She joined her Republican cohorts in killing the DREAM Act, as well as voting against health care reform, despite indicating that she would vote for it if it didn’t have a public option in the bill – which eventually was removed.
The senator was a decided favorite for re-election, especially in the general election, although Tea Party challengers were biting at her heels in the primary. With Snowe’s departure this seat now has to be considered favored for the Democratic candidate. However, only two weeks are left until the filing deadline for both parties. We’ll have to see who throws their hat into the ring. That being said, the Democrats were largely on defense so far this cycle in places like Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana. Having Maine as a new pick-up, as well as Massachusetts with Scott Brown, makes it much more likely that Democrats will hold onto the Senate.