AUBURN – Touting her role as one of the U.S. Senate’s rare moderates, Republican Olympia Snowe announced her candidacy for a third term on Thursday.
“It was an easy decision once I decided that I had the energy and enthusiasm,” Snowe said. She believes her voice as a senator willing to oppose her own party is needed more than ever.
“At the end of the day, centrists play a very critical role,” she said.
Snowe made the 11 a.m. announcement before a crowd of about 50 family, friends and supporters at the Hilton Garden Inn. The Auburn native was greeted by applause, cheers and signs too familiar with the senator to bother including her last name.
Throughout her remarks, Snowe came back to the issue of partisanship in Congress and the party obedience of too many members.
“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be my way or the highway.”
Snowe, like fellow Mainer Susan Collins, has found some power in her status as a moderate. Her votes on health care for the elderly, the environment and on issues regarding the war in Iraq have been among the most coveted by both parties.
About the war, Snowe said “America’s patience is wearing thin.”
“2006 must be a transition year toward full Iraqi sovereignty,” she said. Without a single leader to pull together the country, insurgents and other groups have filled a vacuum of power, she said.
“If Iraqis can’t settle this now, it will be incredibly difficult in the future,” she said.
Snowe, 59, was elected to the Maine House in 1973. She moved to Congress as Maine’s Second District representative in 1978. She served eight terms there before winning her Senate seat in 1994.
The hometown speech was the second in a four-city, re-election kickoff that began in Portland and would move on to Bangor and Presque Isle later in the day.
During Snowe’s Auburn stop, longtime supporter Sharon Millett recalled the 1973 meeting when friends first tried convincing Snowe to run for office.
Snowe was less than eager.
“I will never be the candidate,” Millett remembers Snowe saying. “I will always be the person behind the scenes.”
Of course, her boosters won.
“It’s probably the only time anyone ever won a debate with Olympia Snowe,” Millett said.