WASHINGTON – Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the Senate’s few remaining moderate Republicans, announced Tuesday that she would not seek a fourth term – a blow to GOP hopes of regaining control of the chamber.
Snowe, 65, was one of the few potential crossover voters in an increasingly partisan Congress, and she made her surprise decision in part after reflecting on the increasingly rancorous climate in Washington. She had also served in the House for eight terms.
“I am a fighter at heart, and I am well prepared for the electoral battle,” Snowe said in a statement. “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.”
Snowe’s departure could help Democrats in November. They are defending a narrow 53-47 advantage, counting two independents who caucus with them. Her decision gives the majority party a much-needed opportunity to pick up a Republican-held seat that is now considered a “tossup” by the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.
Snowe was a target of increasingly powerful conservative groups like the Tea Party Express, and faced a rare challenge for renomination within her own party. But she won the backing of Maine’s conservative governor, Paul LePage.
Despite conservatives’ objections, she was not expected to face a difficult re-election, said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Rather, she seemed tired of the increasingly partisan atmosphere.
“There should be an Endangered Species List for Senate moderates,” Duffy said. “If any species needs protection from extinction, it’s Senate moderates.”
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