Yesterday, Sen. Olympia Snowe announced that she has decided not to seek re-election in November, and will be retiring from Congress. The 65-year-old moderate Republican from Maine, who was first elected to the House in 1978, told The New York Times that the increasing divisiveness and lack of civility in Washington was the reason for her decision:
“I do find it frustrating,” she said, “that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”She added: “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.”
Besides the expected focus on the continued loss of moderate Republicans in Washington, The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson wonders what Snowe’s departure will mean for women in the Senate, particularly Republican women. She points out that there are only 17 women in the chamber, and only five of them are Republicans.
“[O]ne of them, Susan Collins of Maine, said that she was ‘absolutely devastated’ to be losing her. (Far more conservative Republicans sounded less than thrilled, too; Snowe is unlikely to be replaced by a G.O.P. candidate, and that could decide who gets the majority.) That shortage of women may explain nothing, or, when it comes to issues like access to birth control, quite a lot.”
Don’t count Snowe out yet, writes New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait. After parsing some of the wording in her retirement statement, he wonders whether she might be planning to join the presidential ticket of the third-party organization Americans Elect. The bipartisan group aims to bring moderates from both sides of the aisle together to pursue a platform that is just to the right of the Obama administration.
As for her seat, there is already talk of drafting Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) to make a run for it. She is the first Democratic woman from Maine elected to the House in 2008 and an ally of Massachusetts Senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren. No comment yet on whether she’ll make a run, but we’ll know soon. The filing deadline for candidacy is March 15.
Just In: In Politico’s “Influence” blog, Anna Palmer and Dave Levinthal wonder what Snowe’s announcement, which apparently caught a lot of people off guard, means for the commerce and finance committees she served on: “Her departure will catapult more junior conservative members, like South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who is in line to be the most senior Republican on commerce. One PI tipster predicted there was a ‘big sea change’ about to occur on commerce.”