Olympia Snowe

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Olympia Snowe
Olympia Snowe official photo 2010.jpg
Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by John Kerry
Succeeded by John Kerry
United States Senator
from Maine
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by George Mitchell
Succeeded by Angus King
First Lady of Maine
In role
February 24, 1989 – January 8, 1995
Governor John McKernan
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 Bill Cohen
Succeeded by John Baldacci
Member of the Maine Senate
from the 12th district
In office
January 5, 1977 – January 3, 1979
Preceded by Elmer Berry[1]
Succeeded by Barbara Trafton[2]
Personal details
Born Olympia Jean Bouchles
(1947-02-21) February 21, 1947 (age 71)
Augusta, Maine, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Peter Snowe (1969–1973)
John McKernan (1989–present)
Education University of Maine, Orono (BA)
Website Official website

Olympia Jean Snowe (née Bouchles ; born February 21, 1947) is an American businesswoman and 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.[3][4] In 2006, she was named one of America's Best Senators by Time Magazine.[5] 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.[6]

On February 28, 2012, Snowe announced that she would not seek re-election in November 2012, and retired when her third term ended on January 3, 2013.[7] She cited hyper-partisanship leading to a dysfunctional Congress as the reason for her retirement from the Senate. Her seat went to former Governor Angus King, a former Democrat and current Independent.

Snowe is currently a senior fellow for the Bipartisan Policy Center and co-chairs its Commission on Political Reform.[8]

Early life[edit]

Official photo of Representative Snowe in 1980

Snowe was born Olympia Jean Bouchles in Augusta, Maine, the daughter of Georgia (née Goranites) and George John Bouchles. Her father emigrated to the United States from Sparti, Greece, and her maternal grandparents were also Greek.[9][10] She is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.[11]

Snowe's early life had its share of tragedies. When she was eight years old, her mother died of breast cancer, and less than a year later, her father died of heart disease. 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 T. Snowe, on December 29, 1969, in New York City.[12]

Early political career[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Snowe married John R. McKernan, Jr., then Governor of Maine, in February 1989. Snowe and John 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.

Tragedy struck Snowe yet again in 1991 when her stepson Peter McKernan died from a heart ailment at the age of 20.

U.S. Senate career[edit]


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 Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell declined to run for re-election, Snowe immediately declared her candidacy for the seat. The 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 re-elected 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%.[citation needed]


Snowe touring damaged areas of Maine in 2007

Snowe was an important voice during the Senate's 1999 impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton. She and fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins sponsored a motion that would have allowed the Senate to vote separately on the charges and the remedy – a "finding of fact" resolution. When the motion failed, Snowe and Collins voted to acquit, arguing that Clinton's perjury did not warrant his removal from office. Her occasional breaks with the Bush administration drew attacks from conservative Republicans; the Club for Growth and Concerned Women for America label her a "Republican In Name Only" (RINO). In February 2006, TheWhiteHouseProject.org named Snowe one of its "8 in '08", a group of eight female politicians who could possibly run and/or be elected president in 2008.[citation needed]

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".[13] 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.[14] She was one of only eight senators who did not miss any votes during that session.[14]

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.[15]

Gang of 14[edit]

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

On May 23, 2005, Snowe was one of fourteen senators dubbed the Gang of 14, who defused a 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.[citation needed]

Committee assignments[edit]

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

Caucus memberships[edit]

Political positions[edit]

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, Susan Collins, who is considered a "half-turn more conservative" than Snowe.[16] Snowe supports abortion rights and some gay rights, and though she previously voted to block the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, she was one of eight Republican senators to vote for the repeal on December 18, 2010. In her 2006 re-election campaign, she was one of two Republican Senate candidates endorsed by the prominent gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign (the other was Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a Democrat since 2013).[17] She was labeled one of the top ten RINOs. or what they label insufficiently conservative, in 2005 by the conservative magazine, Human Events.[18] According to GovTrack, Snowe was the most liberal Republican Senator in 2013 being placed by GovTrack's analysis to the left of every Republican and several Democrats.[19] In 2012, the non-partisan National Journal gave Snowe a composite 57% conservative score and a 43% liberal score.[20]

Snowe supported both President Clinton's involvement in Kosovo and President George W. Bush's invasions 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 Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 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 Chair 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.[citation needed]

With fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins

Snowe is a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership and supports stem cell research. She is also a member of Republicans for Environmental Protection, the Republican Majority for Choice, Republicans for Choice and The Wish List (Women In the Senate and House), a group of pro-choice Republican women. Her highest composite conservative score according to the National Journal was a 63% in 2010 and her highest composite liberal score was a 55.5% in 2006.[20] She voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, an amendment aimed at banning gay marriage, in 2004.[21] She voted against banning gay marriage in 2006 for a second time.[22] In 2005 and 2007, she voted to support embryonic stem-cell research.[23] In 2008, Snowe endorsed Republican candidate John McCain for President of the United States.[24]

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.[25]

In 2007, Olympia Snowe was among the Republicans who voted in favor of the McCain-Kennedy bill to give citizenship to undocumented immigrants.[26] However, she voted against the DREAM Act in 2010.[27] She also voted to continue funding to 'sanctuary cities,' voted against eliminating the 'Y' guestworker visa program, but she also voted in favor of building a fence along the southern border and voted to make English the official language of the United States.[28]

"In October 2009, Snowe was the sole Republican in the Senate to vote for the Finance Committee’s health care reform bill."[23] However, she stated that she might not support the final bill due to strong reservations.[29] 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.[30] She was one of eight Republicans who voted with Democrats to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.[31]

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[clarification needed] of any two members of the U.S. Senate.[32]

In 2012, Snowe endorsed Republican candidate Mitt Romney for President of the United States.[33] After leaving the Senate, Snowe announced her support for same-sex marriage.[34]

Snowe has been on the Board of Directors for the investment counsel firm T. Rowe Price since 2013.[35] She opposed Donald Trump as the GOP nominee in 2016.[36] She said that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton were the least partisan 2016 presidential candidates.[37]

Electoral history[edit]

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%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://lldc.mainelegislature.org/Open/LegRec/107/Senate/LegRec_1975-01-01_SP_pA0011-0017.pdf
  2. ^ http://lldc.mainelegislature.org/Open/LegRec/109/Senate/LegRec_1979-01-03_SP_p0009-0018.pdf
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ McGregor, Jena (February 29, 2012). "Losing Olympia Snowe". Washington Post. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Olympia J. Snowe: The Caretaker". Time. 2006-04-14. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  6. ^ Hulse, Carl (February 10, 2009). "Maine Senators Break With Republican Party on Stimulus". New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2 October 2016. 
  7. ^ "Maine GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe won't seek re-election". USA TODAY. 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  8. ^ "Olympia Snowe - Bipartisan Policy Center". bipartisanpolicy.org. 28 May 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2016. 
  9. ^ "Maine senator has history of being in the middle of things". Associated Press. April 11, 2003. Retrieved 2 October 2016. 
  10. ^ Battle, Robert. "Ancestries of United States Senators: Olympia Snowe". self-published. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  11. ^ Broder, David S. (1997-06-08). "A Real Woman's Issue". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  12. ^ 'Peter Snowe Killed in Turnpike Crash,' Lewiston Daily Sun, April 11, 1973, pg. 1, 2
  13. ^ Calabresi, Massimo; Perry Bacon Jr. (2006-04-16). "America's 10 Best Senators". Time. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  14. ^ a b "Senate members who missed votes: 100th Congress". Washington Post. 2009. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved February 4, 2009. 
  15. ^ STEINHAUER, JENNIFER (February 29, 2012). "Olympia Snowe Won't Seek Re-election". The New York Times. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  16. ^ "How Maine's GOP Senators Are Key to Obama's Agenda". TIME Magazine. 2009-02-12. 
  17. ^ . Human Rights Campaign http://www.hrc.org/nov2006/candidates.htm. Retrieved 2011-06-07.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ "Top 10 RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) | Human Events". Human Events. Retrieved 2018-05-29. 
  19. ^ "Olympia Snowe, former Senator for Maine - GovTrack.us". GovTrack.us. Retrieved 2018-07-18. 
  20. ^ a b "Olympia Snowe's Ratings and Endorsements". votesmart.org. 
  21. ^ Hulse, Carl (2004-07-14). "Senate Vote Blocks Effort to Ban Gay Marriage in Constitution". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-29. 
  22. ^ "Gay marriage ban defeated in Senate vote". msnbc.com. 2006-06-07. Retrieved 2018-05-29. 
  23. ^ a b "9 Snowe votes that angered the GOP". POLITICO. Retrieved 2018-05-29. 
  24. ^ "Endorsement of John McCain". Youtube. 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2007-04-06. 
  25. ^ "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. 
  26. ^ Radio, From Lisa Goddard CNN. "The Senate immigration vote: How they voted - CNN.com". www.cnn.com. Retrieved 2018-05-29. 
  27. ^ Willis, Derek. "Fails To Advance Dream Act - H.R.5281: Removal Clarification Act of 2010". ProPublica. Retrieved 2018-05-29. 
  28. ^ "Olympia Snowe on Immigration". www.ontheissues.org. Retrieved 2018-07-18. 
  29. ^ Republican's Vote Lifts a Health Bill, but Hurdles Remain, The New York Times, October 14, 2009.
  30. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Senate.gov. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  31. ^ Staff, By the CNN Wire. "Senate votes to repeal ban on gays openly serving in military". Retrieved 2018-07-18. 
  32. ^ Olympia Snowe announces her retirement from the U.S. Senate, policyshop.net; February 29, 2012; accessed June 26, 2014.
  33. ^ https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/ballot-2012/2012/04/25/maines-olympia-snowe-says-she-supports-mitt-romney
  34. ^ Lisa Desjardins (April 5, 2013). "Now out of Senate, Snowe supports same-sex marriage". CNN. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  35. ^ T. Rowe Price Board of Directors
  36. ^ Mali, Meghashyam (2016-08-10). "Republican exodus from Trump grows". TheHill. Retrieved 2018-07-18. 
  37. ^ "Olympia Snowe, speaking at Lesley event, says Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton least partisan of potential presidential candidates - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2018-07-18. 

Further reading[edit]

  • 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[edit]

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

Succeeded by
John Baldacci
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Constance Brennan
First Lady of Maine
Succeeded by
Mary Herman
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jasper Wyman
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Maine
(Class 1)

1994, 2000, 2006
Succeeded by
Charlie Summers
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
George Mitchell
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maine
Served alongside: William Cohen, Susan Collins
Succeeded by
Angus King
Preceded by
John Kerry
Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
John Kerry