Maine Senator Olympia Snowe won’t seek reelection

;State Senator Olympia Snowe

Olympia Snowe as a young state Senator.

The long-time pro-choice Republican Senator from Maine says she’s had it with the polarization of Washington politics:

In announcing her plans, Snowe, 65, emphasized that she is in good health and was prepared for the campaign ahead. But she said she was swayed by the increasing polarization in Washington.

“Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term,” Snowe said in a statement. “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.”

While Snowe cites the general “partisanship” of politics as her motivation for retiring, it’s hard not to think that the GOP’s sharp turn to the extreme right in recent years is surely the main problem. Snowe, who was recently rated one of the most moderate Republicans in Congress, often sided with Democrats on social issues, like women’s health and LGBT rights. Most recently, Sen. Snowe and her fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins broke ranks with their party to support Obama’s birth control compromise. Moderate, pro-choice Republicans like them are few and far between these days. Seriously, what’s a Republican girl to do?

While it’s a sad testament to how extreme the GOP has become that there’s no room for the likes of a Sen. Snowe, with her retirement, the Democrats have a good chance of winning the Maine seat up for grabs. A principled, progressive Democrat in her place sounds good to me. Let’s just please make sure she’s a woman–because with Snowe’s departure, the percentage of women in the Senate could dip below an abysmal 15 percent.

graphic on percentage of women in congress

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation