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Olympia Snowe

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Olympia Snowe

Olympia Snowe
United States Senator
from Maine
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by George J. Mitchell
Succeeded by Angus King
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by John Kerry
Succeeded by John Kerry
First Lady of Maine
In office
February 24, 1989 – January 8, 1995
Preceded by Constance Brennan
Succeeded by Mary Herman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by William Cohen
Succeeded by John Baldacci
Member of the Maine Senate
In office
Member of the
Maine House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born Olympia Jean Bouchles
(1947-02-21) February 21, 1947
Augusta, Maine
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Peter Snowe (deceased)
(2) John R. McKernan, Jr.
Residence Falmouth, Maine
Alma mater University of Maine (B.A.)
Occupation Senator
Religion Eastern Orthodox Christian
Website .org.olympiaslistwww

Olympia Jean Snowe (born February 21, 1947) is an American politician who was a United States Senator from Maine from 1995 to 2013. Snowe, a member of the Republican Party, became widely known for her ability to influence the outcome of close votes, including whether to end filibusters.[1][2] In 2006, she was named one of America's Best Senators by Time Magazine.[3] Snowe was famously known for her ability to compromise and her strong sense of bipartisanship. Along with Susan Collins, she was considered one of the most moderate Republicans in office.[4]

On February 28, 2012, Snowe announced that she would not seek reelection in November 2012, and retired when her third term ended on January 3, 2013.[5] She cited hyper-partisanship leading to a dysfunctional Congress as the reason for her retirement from the Senate. Her seat went to popular former Governor Angus King, an independent who won the election to succeed her; King caucuses with the Democrats.


  • Early life 1
  • Early political career 2
  • U.S. Senate career 3
    • Elections 3.1
    • Tenure 3.2
    • Gang of 14 3.3
    • Committee assignments 3.4
    • Caucus memberships 3.5
  • Political positions 4
  • Electoral history 5
  • Personal life 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Official photo of Representative Snowe in 1980

Snowe was born Olympia Jean Bouchles in United States from Sparti, Greece, and her maternal grandparents were also Greek.[6][7] She is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.[8]

Snowe's early life had its share of tragedies. When she was eight years old, her mother died of breast cancer, and her father died of heart disease less than a year later. Orphaned, she was moved to Auburn, to be raised by her aunt and uncle, a textile mill worker and a barber, respectively, along with their five children. Her brother John was raised separately, by other family members. Within a few years, disease would also claim her uncle's life. Following her mother's death, Snowe was sent to St. Basil's Academy in Garrison, New York, where she remained from the third grade to the ninth. One of her teachers was Athena Hatziemmanuel, a notable Greek-American educator at the school. Returning to Auburn, she attended Edward Little High School, before entering the University of Maine in Orono, from which she earned a degree in Political Science (1969). Shortly after graduation, Bouchles married her fiancé, Republican state legislator Peter Snowe.

Early political career

State Senator Snowe

Snowe entered politics and rose quickly, winning a seat on the Board of Voter Registration and working for Congressman (later U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of Defense) William Cohen. Tragedy struck Snowe again in 1973, when her husband was killed in an automobile accident. At the urging of family, friends, neighbors and local leaders, Snowe ran for her husband's Auburn-based seat in the Maine House of Representatives at the age of 26 and won. She was re-elected to the House in 1974, and, in 1976, won election to the Maine Senate, representing Androscoggin County. That same year, she was a delegate to both the state and national Republican conventions. Snowe was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978, and represented Maine's 2nd Congressional District from 1979 to 1995. The district takes in most of the northern two-thirds of the state, including Bangor and her hometown of Auburn. She served as a member of the Budget and International Relations Committees.

Snowe married John R. McKernan, Jr., then Governor of Maine, in February 1989. Tragedy struck Snowe yet again in 1991 when her stepson Peter McKernan died from a heart ailment at the age of 20. Snowe and Jock McKernan had served together in the United States House of Representatives from 1983 to 1986, when McKernan represented the 1st District. While Snowe was First Lady of Maine from 1989 to 1995, she served as a U.S. Representative and was elected and sworn in as a United States Senator.

U.S. Senate career


Snowe and her husband, former Maine Gov. John McKernan, with President George W. Bush and Laura Bush at a holiday reception at the White House

In 1994, when Democratic nominee was her House colleague, 1st District Congressman Tom Andrews. Snowe defeated Andrews 60–36%, carrying every county in the state. Snowe was part of the Republican election sweep of 1994, when the Republican party captured both the House and Senate for the first time since 1954. Snowe was easily reelected in 2000 over State Senate President Mark Lawrence, increasing her winning margin to 69%–31%. She cruised past Democratic opponent Jean Hay Bright in 2006, winning by 74% to 20.6%.


Snowe touring damaged areas of Maine in 2007

Snowe was an important voice during the Senate's 1999

Snowe and the Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter, meeting in the boardroom at Supervisor Shipbuilding, Bath Iron Works

In April 2006, Snowe was selected by Time as one of "America's 10 Best Senators".[9] She was the only woman so recognized. Time praised Snowe for her sensitivity to her constituents, also noting that: "Because of her centrist views and eagerness to get beyond partisan point scoring, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe is in the center of every policy debate in Washington." She received an honorary degree from Bates College in 1998, and another from the University of Delaware in 2008. Snowe did not miss any of the 657 votes on the Senate floor during the 110th Congress from 2007 to 2009.[10] She was one of only eight senators who did not miss any votes during that session.[10]

Snowe is the fourth woman to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the first to chair its seapower subcommittee, which oversees the Navy and Marine Corps. In 2001, Snowe became the first Republican woman to secure a full-term seat on the Senate Finance Committee.

Snowe was the youngest Republican woman ever elected to the United States House of Representatives; she is also the first woman to have served in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of the U.S. Congress. She is the first Greek-American congresswoman. With her 1989 marriage to McKernan, she became the first person to simultaneously be a member of Congress and First Lady of a state. She never lost an election in her 35 years as an elected official, and in the 2006 midterm senatorial elections, she won with a reported 73.99% of votes. However, on Tuesday, February 27, 2012, citing excessive partisanship and a dispiriting political environment, Snowe announced she would not run for re-election in November 2012. Her surprise decision delivered a potential blow to Republicans, who needed just a handful of seats to regain control of the Senate; Snowe was considered one of their safer incumbents.[11]

Gang of 14

Snowe meeting with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito.

On May 23, 2005, Snowe was one of fourteen senators dubbed the confrontation between Senate Democrats (who were filibustering several judicial nominees) and the Senate Republican leadership (who wanted to use the nominations as a flashpoint to eliminate filibusters on nominees through the so-called nuclear option). The Gang-brokered compromise precluded further filibusters and the implementation of the nuclear option for the remainder of the 109th Congress; under its terms, the Democrats retained the power to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee in an "extraordinary circumstance", and nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William Pryor) received a simple majority vote by the full Senate. The Gang later played an important role in the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, as they asserted that neither met the "extraordinary circumstances" provision outlined in their agreement. Snowe ultimately voted for both Roberts and Alito.

Committee assignments

Snowe in a picture of the 16 female senators in the 110th US Congress.

Caucus memberships

Political positions

Snowe meeting with sailors returning from Iraq, at Maine's Naval Air Station Brunswick.

Snowe shares a centrist ideology with her former fellow senator from Maine, Human Rights Campaign (the other was Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island).[13]

Snowe supported both President Clinton's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. On fiscal issues, she has voiced support for cutting taxes as economic stimulus, although she joined fellow Republican senators Lincoln Chafee and John McCain in voting against the Bush tax cuts in 2003. However, she voted for the extension in 2011. She opposes most free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). She was the only Republican to vote for the Tax Fairness and Economic Growth Act of 1992. She is a strong supporter of environmental protections. Both Snowe and fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins have embraced strong gun-control measures following the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

Snowe and Chairman Mary Landrieu address the Small Business Committee

In the 110th Congress, Snowe worked to ensure passage of a genetic non-discrimination act, which she had previously worked to pass for nearly eight years; opposed cutting loans through the Small Business Administration; offered legislation aimed at reducing the price of prescription drugs and insurance costs for small businesses; and became a leading voice among Congressional Republicans expressing concerns over President Bush's plans for the privatization of Social Security.

With fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins

Snowe is a member of the The Wish List (Women In the Senate and House), a group of pro-choice Republican women. In 2008, Snowe endorsed Republican candidate John McCain for President of the United States.[14]

In the 111th Congress, Snowe backed the release of additional Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While she opposed President Obama's budget resolution, she pledged to work in a bipartisan manner on the issues of health care reform and energy.[15]

On October 13, 2009, Snowe voted for the Finance Committee's health care reform bill. However, she stated that she might not support the final bill due to strong reservations.[16] In December 2009, Snowe voted against cloture for two procedural motions and ultimately against the Senate Health Care Reform Bill. Snowe again voted against health care reform when she voted "no" on the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[17]

When Snowe announced in February 2012 that she would not seek re-election, it was reported that she and Democrat Ben Nelson, who also did not seek re-election, had the closest overlap of any two members of the U.S. Senate.[18]

In 2012, Snowe endorsed Republican candidate Mitt Romney for President of the United States.[19] After leaving the Senate, Snowe announced her support for same-sex marriage.[20]

Electoral history

Townspeople and businesses in Bethel, Maine created "Olympia" the snow-woman, named after Snowe
Maine U.S. Senate Election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe (incumbent) 405,596 74.41%
Democratic Jean Hay Bright 113,131 20.75%
Independent William H. Slavick 26,222 4.81%
Maine U.S. Senate Election 2000
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe (incumbent) 437,689 68.94%
Democratic Mark Lawrence 197,183 31.06%
Maine U.S. Senate Election 1994
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe 308,244 60.24%
Democratic Tom Andrews 186,042 36.36%
Independent Plato Truman 17,205 3.36%
Maine's 2nd congressional district election 1992
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe (incumbent) 153,022 49.13%
Democratic Patrick K. McGowan 130,824 42.01%
Green Jonathan K. Carter 27,526 8.84%
Maine's 2nd congressional district election 1990
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe (incumbent) 121,704 51.02%
Democratic Patrick K. McGowan 116,798 48.97%
Maine's 2nd congressional district election 1988
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe (incumbent) 167,226 66.17%
Democratic Kenneth P. Hayes 85,346 33.77%
Maine's 2nd congressional district election 1986
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe (incumbent) 148,770 77.32%
Democratic Richard R. Charette 43,614 22.67%
Maine's 2nd congressional district election 1984
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe (incumbent) 192,166 75.72%
Democratic Chipman C. Bull 57,347 22.60%
Constitution Kenneth E. Stoddard 4,242 1.67%
Maine's 2nd congressional district election 1982
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe (incumbent) 136,075 66.65%
Democratic James Patrick Dunleavy 68,086 33.35%
Maine's 2nd congressional district election 1980
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe (incumbent) 186,406 78.50%
Democratic Harold L. Silverman 51,026 21.49%
Maine's 2nd congressional district election 1978
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Olympia Snowe 87,939 50.82%
Democratic Markham J. Gartley 70,691 40.85%
Independent Frederick W. Whittaker 8,035 4.64%
Independent Eddie Shurtleff 1,923 1.11%
Independent Robert H. Burmeister 1,653 0.96%
Independent Margaret E. Cousins 1,573 0.91%
Independent Robert L. Cousins 1,223 0.71%

Personal life

The world's largest snowman, dubbed "Olympia Snow", was named in honor of her.

See also


  1. ^ Kane, Paul; Cillizza, Chris (February 29, 2012). "Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) says she’ll retire, citing partisanship in Congress". Washington Post. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ McGregor, Jena (February 29, 2012). "Losing Olympia Snowe". Washington Post. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Olympia J. Snowe: The Caretaker". Time. 2006-04-14. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Maine GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe won't seek re-election". USA TODAY. 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  6. ^ . 2003-04-11 
  7. ^ Battle, Robert. "Ancestries of United States Senators: Olympia Snowe". self-published. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  8. ^ Broder, David S. (1997-06-08). "A Real Woman's Issue". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  9. ^ Calabresi, Massimo; Perry Bacon Jr. (2006-04-16). "America's 10 Best Senators". Time. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  10. ^ a b "Senate members who missed votes: 100th Congress". Washington Post. 2009. Retrieved February 4, 2009. 
  11. ^ STEINHAUER, JENNIFER (February 29, 2012). "Olympia Snowe Won’t Seek Re-election". The New York Times. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  12. ^ "How Maine's GOP Senators Are Key to Obama's Agenda".  
  13. ^ . Human Rights Campaign Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  14. ^ "Endorsement of John McCain". Youtube. 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2007-04-06. 
  15. ^ "Snowe Responds to President’s Outline on the State of the American Economy". Senate Office of Olympia Snowe. 2009-04-14. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  16. ^ Republican's Vote Lifts a Health Bill, but Hurdles Remain, The New York Times, October 14, 2009.
  17. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  18. ^ Olympia Snowe announces her retirement from the U.S. Senate,; February 29, 2012; accessed June 26, 2014.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Lisa Desjardins (April 5, 2013). "Now out of Senate, Snowe supports same-sex marriage". CNN. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 

Further reading

  • Nine & Counting: The Women of the Senate, Boxer, Collins, Snowe et al., ISBN 0-06-095706-9.
  • Fighting for Common Ground: How We can Fix the Stalemate in Congress, Snowe, ISBN 1602862176

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William Cohen
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maine's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
John Baldacci
United States Senate
Preceded by
George J. Mitchell
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maine
Served alongside: William Cohen, Susan Collins
Succeeded by
Angus King
Political offices
Preceded by
John Kerry
Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
John Kerry
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jasper S. Wyman
Republican nominee for United States Senator (class 1) from Maine
1994, 2000, 2006
Succeeded by
Charles E. Summers, Jr.
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