Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, ’69 recently retired from her third term as a United States Senator from Maine. After UMaine, Snowe entered politics and rose quickly, winning a seat on the Board of Voter Registration and working for Congressman (later US Senator and US Secretary of Defense) William Cohen. In 1973, she was elected to the Maine House of Representatives at the age of 26, filling the Auburn-based seat left by the death of her first husband, the late Peter Snowe. She was re-elected to the Maine House in 1974, and, in 1976, won election to the Maine Senate. That same year, Snowe was a delegate to both the state and national Republican conventions.Snowe was elected the US House of Representatives in 1978, becoming the youngest Republican woman, and first Greek-American woman, ever elected to Congress. She represented Maine’s 2nd Congressional District from 1979 to 1994, serving as a member of the Budget and International Relations Committees. With her 1989 marriage to John McKernan, then Governor of Maine, Snowe became the first person to simultaneously be a member of Congress and First Lady of a state.In 1994, Snowe was elected to the US Senate, becoming the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress. She was appointed to the position of Counsel to the Assistant Majority Leader in 1997, and in 2001, became the first Republican woman ever to secure a full-term seat on the Senate Finance Committee. Snowe would later serve as Chairman on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship from 2003 to 2007. As a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, she was the Chair and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and the Coast Guard. Snowe is a former member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as its Budget and Senate Armed Services Committees.
During her time in the US House of Representatives, Snowe co-chaired the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues for ten years, and provided leadership in establishing the Office of Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health. She also served as a member of the House Budget Committee; of House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she was Ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on International Operations; and of the House Select Committee on Aging, where she was Ranking Republican on the Subcommittee Human Services. In 2006, Time Magazine selected Snowe as one of “America’s 10 Best Senators“, the only woman so recognized. She never lost an election in thirty-five years as an elected official.
In February, 2012, Sen. Snowe announced she would not run for re-election for her fourth term in the US Senate. In early 2013, after her retirement from the Senate, she published the book Fighting for Common Ground which examines partisanship in contemporary American politics and how Congress can fulfill its mission even amidst such divisiveness. Sen. Snowe currently is a Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where she chairs its Commission on Political Reform.