United States Senator Olympia Snowe shocked the Maine political scene on Tuesday when she announced that she would not seek re-election in November. Her decision prompted a flurry of speculation as to who would run for her seat.
The senator made her announcement in a written statement, citing "an atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies" as the motivating forces behind her decision.
Snowe, a moderate Republican who helped advance the 2009 health care reform bill from committee, won re-election in 2006, winning 75 percent of votes. A member of Congress for 33 years, Snowe's seat was widely considered safe in the upcoming election.
Former Maine Governor Angus King, who teaches at the College, told the Lewiston Sun Journal that he is giving a lot of though to running for the Senate seat as an Independent.
"I haven't decided. I'm talking to people, fielding emails and calls, giving it serious consideration, because the very reason why Olympia left office is why I think we need a different approach," King told the Sun Journal.
While King was weighing his decision, several Democrats were taking steps toward entering the race. According to the Kennebec Journal, Representatives Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree have both obtained the petition papers needed to appear on the ballot. The Journal noted that another former governor, John Baldacci, who recieved an honorary degree from the College last year, also acquired papers.
At the moment, it is unclear how committed each of these candidates are to running for the seat. As the deadline for filing the 2,000 signatures required to appear on the ballot is March 15, those interested must begin the process soon, even if they ultimately decide not to run.
Professor of Government Christian Potholm, a specialist in Maine politics, wrote in an email to the Orient, "Angus King would be a strong contender, also former Governor John Baldacci or Congressman Michaud. Today, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is probably the most ready to jump in and run."
If Pingree and Michaud both decide to run, their congressional seats would become vacant, opening up the possibility for further upheaval in the Maine political scene. The Journal noted that several candidates have already filed papers to run for the two seats.
Much like George Mitchell '54—whose seat Snow won in 1994 following his retirement—Snowe is a Maine political icon.
Given her popularity and the duration of her career, her decision has saddened many of her constituents.
"There's a sense of disappointment. It shows the death of the moderate wing of the party," said Robert Flores '12, president of the Bowdoin College Republicans.
"Olympia has been a great senator for Maine and the U.S. She will be missed. So much of what's wrong with Washington and Augusta is the fact that there are so few from either party truly concerned about solving the problems," wrote Potholm. "No wonder she found it an increasingly frustrating world with most preferring to make partisan points."