Snowe: 'Sensible center' of Congress has virtually disappeared

PORTLAND — Georgia Chomas would not betray the private conversations she's had with Olympia Snowe — her cousin, her "sister."

Steve Mistler, Sun Journal

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe shares a laugh with her former chief of staff, state Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, following Snowe's news conference in Portland on Friday.

Steve Mistler, Sun Journal

Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe acknowledges a standing ovation following her news conference at Embassy Suites in Portland on Friday. Snowe reiterated that she is abandoning another congressional run because the "sensible Senate" has become an all-or-nothing partisan divide. At left is Snowe's husband, former Maine Gov. John McKernan.

But Chomas, one of Snowe's closest confidantes, said that if people wanted to know what prompted Maine's iconic U.S. senator to bid adieu after more than 34 years of public service, they need only watch Snowe as she held court following a news conference in Portland on Friday.

"Do you see that smile?" asked Chomas, of Auburn, gesturing at Snowe as she shook hands and traded stories with well-wishers. "She is relieved. It's been so grueling the last couple of months. To me, that smile is a million dollars."

Chomas added, "She is really at peace with this. This is what's right."

"This," of course, was the news of the week: Snowe had abandoned her re-election bid for the U.S. Senate. The bombshell announcement rippled nationally. The effects are still being sorted out. Would-be successors continue to weigh ambitions and reservations. National political operatives are exerting pressure, calculating their best chances to achieve power in Washington, D.C. 

Snowe soon will leave all that behind. The two-party system isn't broken, she said, but the all-or-nothing actors wielding influence have compromised lawmakers' ability to get things done. 

"What used to be known as the 'sensible center' has virtually disappeared in Washington," she said at the Embassy Suites Hotel at the Portland Jetport. 

In its place, Snowe said, is an all-or-nothing atmosphere that leaves too much time for campaigning and not enough for governing. There is no room for moderates like herself, she said. 

"I know no other way," she said. "Some people like to say that being a moderate is a capitulation of principles. It is not."

The comment was met with loud applause. The room was filled with politicians, many of whom don't embrace the centrist approach upon which Snowe's legacy has been built.

Her Democratic opponents challenge that legacy. She has voted with her Republican Party more often than not, they say. She has tacked right to retain power. They say that, too. 

But to those who believe there is more to her sudden departure than her fatigue with the partisan divide, Snowe offered no hint of anything else. 

She turned 65 last week. The milestone, she said, offered a broader perspective on what her future should be. 

"There was no clarifying moment," she said. "When I turned 65, I had the opportunity to think about a macro decision."

Snowe's abrupt move has put her Republican Party in a bind, in Maine and nationally. Did she consider that?

"I didn't," she said. "This was entirely a personal decision. This had nothing to do with my party."

The right flank of her party has always been tough on her, but more so lately. A smattering of boos broke out when she spoke during the Maine GOP caucuses several weeks ago. Earlier this week, Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch sent a mailer to voters warning that if he wasn't re-elected, Snowe could become the Senate chairwoman of the Finance Committee. 

Moderate ideology has been assailed during the GOP presidential campaign.

Snowe downplayed her differences with the tea party. She met many tea party folks, she said. They understood each other. Additionally, she said, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a tea party-backed governor, had her back when she decided last year she was going to seek re-election.

The re-election bid was running full throttle before Snowe hit the brakes Tuesday night. Her war chest had nearly $4 million. Polls showed her demolishing her opponents — Republicans, Democrats and others. 

"What has always gotten me up in the morning is the promise of producing results," she said, adding that she didn't see that opportunity anymore.  "I do not see the polarization that stands in the way of getting things done ending anytime soon."

If the art of compromise is lost in partisan gridlock, what does that mean for her successor? Is she or he doomed to a do-nothing, eternal-campaigning fate?

"There can be room for moderates," Snowe said. "But they'll have to make that part of what gets them elected. The majority of American people are in the center in some way or another."

The press conference ended with questions about her future. Would she enlist in one of the national groups championing the center of the electorate? Snowe was noncommittal, saying she would forge a path where the center always has a voice in public policy decision-making.

For now, she said, she will finish her time in office the way her congressional career began in 1994: On her terms.

As Snowe took more questions from a scrum of reporters, her cousin, her confidante, Georgia Chomas, looked on. 

"She always trusts her instincts," Chomas said. "She's made the right move."

smistler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

William Burke's picture

THANK YOU MRS SNOW FOR YOUR

THANK YOU MRS SNOW FOR YOUR SERVICE. BUT IT IS TIME TO GO. YOU CAN,T WIN WHEN YOU ARE DEALING WITH THE FAR LEFT. NOTICE I SAID FAR LEFT. JUST LIKE SOME ON THE FAR RIGHT. I BELIEVE THE LEFT STARTING WITH OBAMA ARE GOING TO RUIN THIS COUNTRY. LOOK AT GAS AND FUEL OIL IN THIS STATE NOW. I CAN,T AFFORD IT. THEY RUINED MY INSURANCE, IT WENT UP TO 190.00 A WEEK BECAUSE OF OBAMA. THERE WAS A TIME (I VOTED FOR CARTER) THAT I VOTED DEM. BUT WITH THE HATE THAT PEOPLE PUT OUT I JUST CAN,T ANYMORE. I HOPE WHATEVER HAPPENEDS WE CAN GO BACK WERE LIBERALS AND CONS CAN STILL HAVE A FRENDLY FIGHT AND STILL BE FRIENDS. WE NEED TO START PUTTING OUR COUNTRY FIRST. THE PRESS NEEDS TO REPORT THE NEWS NOT MAKE IT.

Tony Morin's picture

Billy, Hit the Caps Lock

Billy, Hit the Caps Lock button buddy.

ANTHONY NAZAR's picture

on defining moderate, conservative or liberal

Almost everyone says they're moderate, middle of the road, centrist or non-partisan because that has been defined by the pundits as "good" and no one wants to be thought of as "bad" or a crazy by admitting they're conservative or liberal or even further to the edge and be thought what my old political science prof called reactionary (right) or radical (left).

Then you have people who nuance it it a bit to make themselves that ideal human, the fiscal conservative and cultural liberal. Fence seating is most uncomfortable when you favor helping the poor but you don't want to pay for it. We have a legislature full of those people. They'll tell you what ever you want to hear.

So how these words are defined depends on the definer and what Mr. Webster (NOT Charlie) says has no basis in reality unless you are willing to allow some unknown lexicographer to decide what you think.

I'm a bit to the left of liberal in the 60's sense of the term. I believe we are our brothers' keeper and feel that certain industries that have a government monopoly due to patent laws should be the subject of strong oversight (think pharmaceuticals). Others would be better nationalized - single payer health care would be less expensive - even accountants agree on that. I don't see war as the first option in foreign policy, but I enlisted in the military in 1960 and served proudly until 1964.

I really think Susan Collins falls into my definition of conservative. Plus she jumps when Brother McConnell says your vote is needed to block Obama. Olympia is to the left of Collins but still a centrist conservative who has been tacking right because the Tea Party feels free to threaten pols they disagree with. I know of at least one who gets threatening phone calls and e-mails that should result in charges of simple assault or terrorizing.

Would the country be better served if all of us clustered in a big middle ground herd. Probably not - tension and discord breed innovation. But, they become counter-productive when the extremes throws public tantrums. Add the SuperPacs and people like the Kochs or Soros to the mix and the only beneficiaries are the media advertising departments and people like Ed Shultz and Rush Limbaugh.

The latter should be ashamed of himself for his attack on Ms Fluke.

Kim Waite's picture

Meanwhile...

Sen. Susan Collins has voted with the crazies in the Senate by supporting the Blunt Amendment. I called her Lewiston office (207-784-6969) yesterday to ask her to go on record supporting a religious employer who refuses to offer it's employees coverage for blood transfusions because that employer is morally against them. Doubt she will say a thing!

These wingnuts have wrecked our nation. I don't blame Snowe for hightailing it out of the US Congress. I would be embarrassed to be represented or lumped in with those wackos.

Robert Groetzinger's picture

This is where the Tea Party

This is where the Tea Party and the Right has brought us.

Compromise is a bad word to them,they can't even say the word.
If you do not agree with them you are evil,not from this country, Communist,Socialist,liberal,Progressive,Elite and the list goes on.
Gary gives us an example of this.
I only hope that we can keep the majority in the middle.

William Burke's picture

ITS THE DEMS THAT DON,T

ITS THE DEMS THAT DON,T COMPROMISE UNLESS ITS THEIR BILL THEN THEY WANT US TO

GARY SAVARD's picture

Ron, your comment is a

Ron, your comment is a perfect example of what Senator Snowe is fed up with. You have very liberal views, and anyone who does not share those views with you is "crazy". Compromise is not a word in your vocabulary, and it's what's missing in D.C. as well. What we need are more moderates like Snowe and Collins instead of lock-step party followers. Maybe then we could move the country forward. Smewhere between the two extremes is very likely where the right direction for our country will be found.

Kim Waite's picture

Those "moderates"

you speak of spend @ 80% of their time voting in lockstep with the republican agenda. Mainers who have voted for Snowe & Collins in the past because they see these two as "moderates" are the ones who focus on the 20% of their votes they like and that's what they base that label on.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Kim, you mean like Michaud

Kim, you mean like Michaud and Pingree? Whatever the Obama administration and the D.C. dems want, they can always count on the votes of Maine's two house members. I'll take a 20% crossover over that any time and yes, I'll give Snowe and Collins a "Moderate" label. I guess it depends on how you look at it.

William Burke's picture

Gary your right.When do the

Gary your right.When do the two Dems go against Obama they don,t.

Kim Waite's picture

Ummmmm...

those who go against Obama's policies are the people on the wrong side of history. They're the same people who keep making our nation go backwards. They don't care about this country. They didn't do a thing to quell the tide for 8 years under Bush and now that it's time to fix those problems, these whiny ass titty babies don't want to!

Chellie & Mike want to see America continue to grow no matter how slow it's going. Better to be going forward slowly than backwards quickly!

William Burke's picture

YOUR ON A FIRST NAME BASIS

YOUR ON A FIRST NAME BASIS WITH THEM. YOU STARTED THE NAME CALLING CALL US WACKOS AN WINGNUTS BUT LIKE YOU LIBS ALLWAYS DO YOU FORGOT THAT

Kim Waite's picture

Uh ha.

When you say "libs" are you being nice and respectful?

William Burke's picture

KIM YOUR STARTING TO GET MAD

JUST LIKE ALLWAYS YOU START CALLING NAMES WHEN YOU LOOSE. I SERVED MY COUNTRY HAVE YOU YOU LITTLE CRY BABY

Kim Waite's picture

Well,

thanks for proving you're a wingnut! Thank you for serving our nation. My father was an Army Sargeant during the Vietnam War and was a Union member (pulp & paper). He's my true hero! There aren't many men in his age group who can hold a candle to him. For instance, he would not be on here using caps to yell at a woman to get his points across. LOL

William Burke's picture

CAPITAL LETTERS

DON,T FALL BACK ON BEING A WOMEN YOUR BIG MOUTH STARTED THE STRONG WOMEN THE RACE CARD NOW YOU DON,T WANT TO BE PICKED ON. IF YOU HAD READ MY COMMENT I TOLD YOU I USE CAPITALS SO I CAN SEE THEM NOT YELLING. I WAS A NAVY NURSE DURING THE VIETNAM WAR. MY DAD WAS A LT COM DURING WW2 SO WHAT. YOU LIBS ALLWAYS DO THIS. YOUR NOT EVEN WORTH TALKING TO

Kim Waite's picture

You use caps

so you can see other's yelling? That doesn't even makes sense. In fact, all that you've said here doesn't. You can "pick on me" all you want and I will give it right back to you.

What did your time in the service teach you? That the right to free speech is the most important right we Americans (even the libs!) have? I hope so! I hope that's the one you focused on!

Kim Waite's picture

I love it

when any White House can rely on the rational votes of Pingree & Michaud! :D Republican policies have and continue to hurt our country. I've watched Snowe & Collins on the floor of the Senate on C-SPAN2 and they both will wait to see how a vote is going before they cast their own. This is why many were shocked when Snowe ran down fast to vote against the Blunt Amendment. Her shackles were gone!

William Burke's picture

I DON,T KNOW YOU KIM BUT I

I DON,T KNOW YOU KIM BUT I CAN SEE YOU SITTING THERE WITH YOUR NOSE UP IN THE AIR THINKING YOU ARE SO SMART. WELL LOOK AROUND YOU. FOOD GAS HOUSING WARS OIL ALL UP SINCE OBAMA TOOK OVER. YOU THINK BILLIONAIR PENGREE REALLY CARES ABOUT YOU. HER POSITION GIVES HER HUSBAND POWER. NOW HE IS RUNNING PORTLAND PRESS. PS I USE CAPITAL LETTERS SO I CAN SEE THEM BETTER NOT TO MAKE A POINT

Kim Waite's picture

I don't know you either

but I've surmised that you don't like a smart woman in your midst. Sad. Anyway, can you answer a very basic question that has been bothering me for some time: why is it under George Bush the cost of a barrel of oil got up to $150 and the price at the pump was $4/gallon, but under Obama the price for a barrel of oil gets up to $108 and the price at the pump is quickly approaching $4/gallon? Do you think it's because the speculators don't like Obama's skin color and party affiliation? I've often wondered.

The price of food has steadily been going up and the prices that have remained somewhat stable are in boxes half their size now. Did you notice that? A box of Cheese-Its we can fit in our pockets now and it's only 50 cents more a box. What a bargin! Been going on for years, but some didn't notice because they were too busy worshiping Bush's amazing warmongering.

Chellie's husband bought a very miniscule amount of the PPH. He doesn't own it. Far from it. But hey! Why let facts get in your way!

William Burke's picture

RACE AND OIL

I WONDERED HOW LONG BEFOR YOU BROGHT UP THE RACE CARD. YOU ARE A RACSIT I CAN TELL. I AM AROUND A SMART WOMEN ALL THE TIME MY WIFE. SHE IS 10 TIMES SMARTER THAN YOU AND PROBABLY HAS A LOT MORE FRIENDS. OBAMA SHUT DOWN DRILLING ALL OVER, STOPPED A PIPE LINE TO MAKE IDIOTS LIKE YOU VOTE FOR HIM. HOW MANY OF THE WELFARE PROGRAMS YOU ON KIMMY. YOU SURE ARENT SMART ENOUGH TO HOLD DOWN A THINKING JOB. MINISCULE SMALL AMOUNT MY AS$. THATS ALL HE NEEDS WITH THAT LIB RAG. AND HIS WIFE IN CONGRESS

Kim Waite's picture

Why is a woman

who is 10 times smarter than me doing with a man like you? I feel bad for her. Her choice wasn't good. Anyway, tell me what the answer is then: is it his skin color or is it because the speculators were saving George Bush from a complete national meltdown? You're married to a smart woman: ask her for the answer!

Drilling? It has increased along the Gulf Coast despite all the Howie Carr supporters saying, "Oh, you just wait! The Dems will say there's more drilling going on now than there has for a long time!". Well, that is true.

Do you support building the Keystone Pipeline to help the Canadians? Why would anyone be okay with another country using our land so they and the oil speculators/companies can sell the oil overseas so we Americans can buy it back at a higher price?

I'm not on welfare. I've owned my own business for 16 years now. You? You getting that socialist Social Security check each month, commie?

You hate Michelle Obama? Why? Because she wants kids to eat better in school but you would rather pump them up with sugar so America can continue to be the fattest country on the planet? Wow. Okay. Good reason to hate someone! *rolling eyes*

William Burke's picture

RESPOND TO IDIOT LOB

WERE IS ALL THIS HATE COMING FROM. I NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT HIS WIFE. I THINK SHE SHOULD KEEP HER BIG MOUTH SHUT. HE STOPPED DRILLING LONG TIME BEFOR THE KING OBAMA OPENED IT UP. OBAMA WOULD NOT BE A PIMPLE ON GEORGE BUSHES AS$

Kim Waite's picture

Hate? *rolling eyes*

You really spin everything I say. Here's what you typed in big capital letters: "THATS ALL HE NEEDS WITH THAT LIB RAG. AND HIS WIFE IN CONGRESS".

You tell me what it means. You speak in tongues!

Speaking of George Bush....I think you should keep your big mouth shut because every time you open it an uneducated warmongering fascist gets it's wings! Ewww.

Obama is a pimple on Bush's ass? Ummmm....after Georgie left his shit-pile for the nation to fix and handle, he infected us all with gangrene. You have it all wrong, but then again, I'm not surprised. You are a Fabrication News watcher!

William Burke's picture

RESPOND TO IDIOT LOB

WERE IS ALL THIS HATE COMING FROM. I NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT HIS WIFE. I THINK SHE SHOULD KEEP HER BIG MOUTH SHUT. HE STOPPED DRILLING LONG TIME BEFOR THE KING OBAMA OPENED IT UP. OBAMA WOULD NOT BE A PIMPLE ON GEORGE BUSHES AS$

GARY SAVARD's picture

Obviously an over the top

Obviously an over the top liberal with no room for discussion . Exactly the problem at both ends of the spectrum. People who think one way and one way only with no compromise in their vocabulary. Guess what, Kim, there are people on the other side that are just as passionate about their views as you are about yours...and they won't budge either. Name calling doesn't change anything, either.

Kim Waite's picture

Name calling?

Where am I doing some name calling? See, the difference between my side and the other side, is my side wants the majority of the people to be sound. The other side wants the top 1% to be. They're very passionate about that too!

I am an over the top liberal. Thanks for pointing that out. I wear it as a badge of honor!

Bob Stone's picture

Liberal?

Margaret Thatcher said "Socialism is great until other people's money runs out." Liberalism and socialism are very close cousins.

Other peoples money is running out all over Europe. I am sure you have been paying attention.

Because Obama and friends are printing money like it is going out of style, and it won't be long before we are out of other people's money on this side of the great Atlantic.

What are we going to do then, Kim?

Kim Waite's picture

So Bob, you blame Obama

for the world's financial problem, but refuse to put the blame on the financial institutions/banks who took all the risk and who have created a $1.5 QUADRILLION dollar derivatives/Credit Default Swap bubble based on greedy, illegal, offshore, and immoral betting? Huh?

This is why I'm proud to be a liberal. While you are blaming Obama for the nation and the world's problems, we liberals paid attention to what was really happening and who is truly to blame!

William Burke's picture

KIM PAYING ATTENTIO

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE HOUSE LAST ELECTION. WE WACKOS AND WINGNUTS AS YOU CALL US PAID ATTENTION. YOU GOT YOU BUTT KICKED. DO YOU REMEMBER THAT YOU LITTLE MINDED LIBERAL

Kim Waite's picture

Yep, you tea people won a year ago

(you were sworn into office in January 2011), but what has happened since you took over the US House? Gas has gone up almost $1/gallon! Where's your outrage? The president can't go after the oil speculators directly, but the republican controlled House can, but they won't. They love the oil speculators and they love the profits they're making with their oil stocks.

I'm not little minded. Thanks for the opportunity to state the obvious!

What has also happened since you tea people took over? Oh that's right, almost all the bills that you've brought up have been about women's health care. How about creating some jobs? I thought you said you were the job creators so "Vote for us!" you all screamed.

The last year has been the worst on record thanks to the tea-people-know-it-alls!

William Burke's picture

THERE IS NO SENCE TALKING TO

THERE IS NO SENCE TALKING TO PEOPLE LIKE YOU KIM. YOU ARE SMALL MINDED AND THE PROBLEM GOODBY KOOLAID DRINKING LIB

Kim Waite's picture

I agree.

Talking to you and watching the koolaid run down your neck is not fun. I feel sorry for you. I don't even see a hole in your lip either! Are you watching Fox News? That could be the cause.

William Burke's picture

FOX

YES LITTLE KIMMY I WATCH FOX FOR THE REAL NEWS MSNBC CNN FOR A LAUGH. FOX FIRST IN NEWS FOR 10 YEARS SORRY YOUR LOOSING. YOUR COMMENTS ARE NOT MAKING SENCE. YOU ARE COMING UNHINGED

Kim Waite's picture

Well, I'm going to bed now.

I hope you and your wife have long intellectual conversations tonight about how Obama's long form birth certificate is a forgery just to make you tea people crazy! That should be fun. Remember: don't let any facts come into your conversation. Wouldn't be fair to your world view!

Nighty night.

William Burke's picture

WIFE

PLEASE LEAVE MY WIFE OUT OF THIS KIMMY. FIRST OF ALL I AM NOT A TEA PARTY MEMBER AND I BELEVE HE WAS BORN HERE. YOUR NOT AS SMART AS YOU THINK. THE ONLY REASON I AM SITTING HERE ON SAT NIGHT IS I WORK EVERY OTHER WEEKENED. I GOT A LIFE UNLIKE YOU. I HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO THAN SIT AROUND AND POP OFF LIKE YOU. I COME ACROSS THIS TONIGHT AND HAVE REALLY ENJYED GETTING YOU MAD. ITS WHAT I DO TO HAVE FUN. YOU LIBS ARE JUST TO EASY TO GET MAD. GOODBY UNTILL THE NEXT TIME/

Kim Waite's picture

No Billy, I won't!

You brought her into the mix, remember?

I work Monday-Friday and have so for 16 years. I work 52 years a week and the last full week I had off was in the summer of 2004. You?

You did not get me mad. I was as cool as a cucumber. You were the one yelling all night. I had a blast too! Was fun watching you get red-faced and that hair of yours stick up off your part in the opposite direction!

You wingnuts are stupid.

Kim Waite's picture

Wow Billy Boo!

I knew you watched Fox News! Totally shows. You're claiming I'm the one who has become unhinged, but you just proudly admitted to watching Fabrication News!

By the way, SENSE is spelled without a "c". But you knew that. You're married to a woman 10 times smarter than me that you watch Fox with!

William Burke's picture

FOX

LITTLE LIBBY MY WIFE DON,T WATCH FOX NEWS. SHE WATCHES CHAN 6.

Kim Waite's picture

Oooooo

Channel 6 News! That's why she's smarter than me! LOL

William Burke's picture

LIB HATER

SO I MISSPELLED A WORD YOUR SO SMART. SHE IS NOT ONLY SMARTER TAN YOU I KNOW SHE IS BETTER LOOKING. YOU CAN,T STAND TO BE PUT DOWN. IF YOU HAVE A MAN I FEEL FOR HIM.

Kim Waite's picture

She's better looking now?

Wow? Anything else you want to point out? How many teeth does she have?

Hopefully a strong Democratic

Hopefully a strong Democratic canidate will emerge and retakethe seatso the senate maintains its democratic majority

RONALD RIML's picture

Obviously

Obviously Senator Snowe has finally come to the realization that she can no longer reason with crazy people - and they are of her own party.

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