WASHINGTON — Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, whom most political insiders agreed is one of the few remaining Republican moderates, announced Tuesday that she will retire at the end of her current term.
“Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term,” she said in a statement, explaining her decision to retire.
“As I have long said, what motivates me is producing results for those who have entrusted me to be their voice and their champion, and I am filled with that same sense of responsibility today as I was on my first day in the Maine House of Representatives. 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.
“With my Spartan ancestry I am a fighter at heart; and I am well prepared for the electoral battle, so that is not the issue.
“However, what I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. Unfortunately, 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, which is what a fourth term would entail.”
Snowe said her ability to win re-election was not at issue — she was heavily favored to win re-election.
Her exit, however, gives Democrats a new opportunity to be pick up a GOP-held seat in a year where they are fighting to hold on to control of the Senate. Democrats currently control the chamber with a 53-47 split, with 2 independent senators caucusing with Democrats.
Maine’s other Republican senator, Susan Collins, reacted, saying she was “absolutely devastated” by Snowe’s decision to leave the Senate.
Snowe has held her Senate seat since 1994; Collins was first elected in 1996.
The Human Rights Campaign has given Snowe a 78 percent rating on LGBT issues, citing her support of The Matthew Shepard-James C. Bryd Hate Crimes Act, her vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and her voting against the Federal Marriage Amendment. In 2009, Snowe co-sponsored the fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).