Big news out of the Pine Tree State this afternoon: Olympia Snowe, one of Maine’s two incumbent Republican senators, has announced that she has decided not to seek reelection in 2012, citing a desire to be free of the partisan rancor that pervades Capitol Hill these days. Her decision to retire could have a profound effect on the U.S. Senate electoral landscape for this cycle, giving Democrats a much-needed pickup opportunity to offset likely losses elsewhere.
“After thirty-three years in the Congress, this was not an easy decision,” Snowe said in a statement. “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.”
“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’s announcement seemed to catch many of her fellow Republicans off-guard, including her seatmate, fellow Republican Susan Collins, who called her decision “a complete surprise”. The deadline to file is just two weeks away, so prospective candidates from both parties will need to come to a decision quickly about running.
Chellie Pingree, one of Maine’s two Democratic U.S. Representatives, has already hinted that she is giving serious thought to entering the race.
“I want to thank Senator Snowe for her decades of service to the people of Maine,” Pingree said in a press release issued in the wake of Snowe’s announcement. “From her time in the House to her three terms in the Senate, Senator Snowe has shown her independence and dedication to Maine. I called Senator Snowe earlier to wish her and her husband all the best in the next stage of her life.
She added: “This upcoming election is critical to the future of our working families around the country, and in the coming days I will carefully consider how I can best serve the people of Maine.”
If Pingree runs, she stands a good chance of winning the Democratic nomination, which will be decided in June . She already represents half of the state, and was one of only eight Democrats to receive a higher percentage of the vote in 2010 (a difficult cycle for Democrats) than in 2008, when she was first elected.
In her one and a half terms in the U.S. House, she has consistently worked to advance the common good and strengthen America’s common wealth. Her crucial lifetime score on ProgressivePunch is an impressive 92.29%, and she is ranked as one of the country’s most progressive representatives. (She is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus).
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), which helped draft Elizabeth Warren into the race against Scott Brown in Massachusetts a few months ago, has already launched a “Draft Pingree” effort, which could catch fire in the coming days.
Gerald Weinand, proprietor of Dirigo Blue, Maine’s best-known progressive blog, has a must-read piece looking at might happen next, entitled The reality of running for an open seat in Maine. Click on over to get his perspective and leave a comment if you’re so inclined. Dirigo Blue also has more reaction to the news of Snowe’s retirement.