Senator Olympia Snowe Reflects on Her Decision to Retire 

One day after Senator Olympia Snowe announced she won’t seek re-election, the political landscape in Maine is quickly changing. Democratic Representatives Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, along with former Governor John Baldacci, have already started gathering signatures for a possible run to fill senate seat.Catherine Pegram spoke with Senator Snowe from Washington about the fallout.Q: Your decision not to run for re-election is stunning when it comes to the political world and many here are still in disbelief over it. How are you feeling a day later? Can you still believe that you’ve made this decision, the announcement and do you have any regrets?Well you know it’s always difficult when you’re making a life changing decision particularly because I’ve been in the political arena for 40 years, counting this year, starting with my days in the State House and the State Senate. Obviously, it is with mixed feelings that I’ve made this decision because I love the Senate, I love working for the people of Maine, I love public service and the essense of it is to solve problems which, regrettably, is not happening in the Senate, certainly to the degree that we should, given the times that we’re in. So in any event it was a very tough decision that’s why it was hard to come to a conclusion but I knew I had to yesterday in order to give time for other candidates to garner their signatures.Q: And that’s what a lot of people are doing now – obviously names being thrown hither and yon as to who may want to run and fill your seat. The political fallout is certainly going to be incredible when you think about it. What are your thoughts about that, maybe even concerns that this seat that you’ve held so long could wind up in the hands of a Democrat?We’ve got some great candidates potentionally on the Republican side who I know are giving consideration to it. So it’s not a foreordained conclusion that a Democrat would win. I think that’s going to be obviously up to the people of Maine, the issues, what positions or candidate they’d prefer. So I think it will be a very competitive race irrespective. The times are demanding and people are going to expect solutions so I think all of these decisions as far as candidates are concerned are in the hands of the people and generally those decisions will be made in the final days leading up to election day.Q: Your decision is certainly a game changer when it comes to representation in Maine, when it comes to the make up of Congress. Have you thought much about that and where Maine will stand once you leave a position that you have nutured so well and given such strength to?Well, I appreciate that, yes, I did. That was the agonizing part of all this decision to leave something that you really love. The question was if this was my last term, if I had the good fortune to be re-elected, then how best do I want to spend that six years because I’d have a six year commitment to a final term and that’s when I started to think how I could best serve this time, at this stage in my life. I say I had a milestone birthday last week and it compels you to start thinking about your life and the kinds of things you can and cannot do, so it all came together how I could best now serve, given the fact that we are not doing the things we should be doing in the Senate, the process has really deteriorated and degenerated in terms of solving problems. So that’s how it came together. It wasn’t an easy decision, it wasn’t clear cut, frankly, because it never can be, but, ultimately, I knew I had to make a decision and it was tough one, to say the least. Q: So have you been able to decide what’s next for you yet? No, not yet. I’ll give that time. I want to think about pursuing opportunities where I can give voice to the concerns that I have outside the Senate and hopefully that can compel change, too. I think that’s important for people to understand that the American people, the Maine people, the American people have to demand it. They have to demand that their elected officials are obligated to work across the aisle and solve problems. That’s the way the senate functions, you can’t function any other way. Otherwise you get what you get, which is the current stalemate on so many key issues facing the country. We’ve postponed and deferred so many issues, regrettably, for this country. I’ve said that we’ve lost precious time in the life of America because we’ve deferred all of these issues. Deferred to when? I do not know because its an endless, perpetual process of deferring and never really tackling the key issues that matter to this country and matter to the future. Candidates for the open senate seat have just two weeks to collect 2,000 signatures to get on the June primary ballot.