Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) will not be seeking re-election, meaning the loss of one of the most pro-LGBT equality members of the Senate Republican caucus -- and talk of a possible pick-up for Democrats.
Snowe said in a statement, first reported by The Portland Press Herald, that "this was not an easy decision. My husband and I are in good health... I have no doubt I would have won re-election."
"[W]hat 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," she said.
"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 is one of the three Senate Republicans -- along with fellow Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) and Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk (R), who is recovering from a stroke -- to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Log Cabin Republicans executive director R. Clarke Cooper called the news a "loss," telling Metro Weekly, "Senator Olympia Snowe was a true statesman throughout her remarkable thirty-four year tenure representing Maine. Log Cabin Republicans are proud to call Senator Snowe longtime ally."
LCR deputy executive director Christian Berle has a personal connection to the senator and the state.
"As a former Snowe staffer and as a Mainer, I am in awe of her exemplary career and her tireless work as a Member of Congress. The Republican Party and the country were better for her service," he told Metro Weekly. "I look forward to seeing the next Olympia Snowe step forward to be a leader for a new generation."
Of her accomplishments regarding LGBT equality, Cooper noted, "She was one of the Republican voices in support of open service and voted for repeal of the failed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. She also provided an example to her peers in her consistent support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We look forward to continuing the legacy and leadership of Senator Snowe by standing up for what is right."
As referenced by Cooper, Snowe voted for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2010. She also voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act with the inclusion of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. She is not, however, a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
Already being pushed for the seat is pro-LGBT equality House member Chellie Pingree (D), about whom Courage Campaign's Adam Bink said today, on his own behalf and not on behalf of his current organization: "I for one hope Rep. Chellie Pingree runs. I met her in the No On 1 [Maine marriage equality referendum] war room in '09 when she stopped in to wish us well and ask what she could do to help. She's also been a leader in the fight for a health care public option and on campaign finance reform for a long time."
Pingree, according to The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel, said that in coming days she will "consider how I can best serve the people of Maine." The state's other House member, Rep. Mike Michaud (D), is reported by Sun Journal reporter Steve Mistler to have said, "I'm seriously considering entering the race."
Snowe first won election to the Senate in 1994, when she won the seat formerly held by once-Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D) after he announced his retirement.
UPDATE @ 7:55P: President Obama, via a statement, praised Snowe's 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," he said in the statement. "Michelle and I join Mainers in thanking Senator Snowe for her service, and we wish her and her family all the best in the future."
READ Snowe's full statement below the jump.
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|Tuesday, February 28, 2012|
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
STATEMENT OF SENATOR OLYMPIA J. SNOWE ON
RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN FOR UNITED STATES SENATE
WASHINGTON, D.C – Three-term Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) issued the following statement today with regard to her re-election campaign:
“After an extraordinary amount of reflection and consideration, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate.
“After 33 years in the Congress this was not an easy decision. My husband and I are in good health. We have laid an exceptionally strong foundation for the campaign, and I have no doubt I would have won re-election. It has been an indescribable honor and immeasurable privilege to serve the people of Maine, first in both houses of Maine’s legislature and later in both houses of Congress. To this day, I remain deeply passionate about public service, and I cherish the opportunity I have been given for nearly four decades to help improve the lives of my fellow Mainers.
“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.
“As I enter a new chapter, I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern, and I believe there are unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate. I intend to help give voice to my fellow citizens who believe, as I do, that we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America.
“In the meantime, as I complete my third term, I look forward to continuing to fight for the people of Maine and the future of our nation. And I will be forever and unyieldingly grateful for the trust that the people of Maine have placed in me, and for the phenomenal friendship and assistance I have received over the years from my colleagues, my supporters, and my staff, both in Maine and in Washington.” Senator Snowe will be scheduling a news conference in Portland, Maine, in order to further discuss her decision when she returns to her home state on Friday.
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