Olympia Snowe Will Not Seek Re-Election

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, of Maine, will not seek re-election, she announced on Tuesday.

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) arrive to vote on a bill allowing a rise in the debt ceiling on Capitol Hill in Washington August 2, 2011. The United States is poised to step back from the brink of economic disaster as a bitterly fought deal to cut the budget deficit is expected to clear the Senate and President Barack Obama's desk.

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, of Maine, will not seek re-election, she announced on Tuesday.

"After an extraordinary amount of reflection and consideration, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate," she said in prepared statement.

Snowe, a three-term senator and former eight-term House member, said she was "well prepared" for another electoral bid, attributing her decision instead to partisan gridlock in Congress.

"With my Spartan ancestry I am a fighter at heart; and I am well prepared for the electoral battle, so that is not the issue," the statement continued.

"However, what I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. 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."

She said she found the "atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies" currently pervading Congress "frustrating."

The longtime lawmaker is widely considered a moderate voice in the Republican party, and has shown willingness to defy party leadership and vote with Democrats on a number of key issues. She supports abortion rights, and was one of few Republicans to help craft President Obama's health care overhaul. (Ultimately, however, she did not vote for the health care reform bill.)

In her statement, Snowe said she and her husband are in "good health" and that she had "no doubt" she would have won re-election.

"It has been an indescribable honor and immeasurable privilege to serve the people of Maine, first in both houses of Maine's legislature and later in both houses of Congress," she said. "To this day, I remain deeply passionate about public service, and I cherish the opportunity I have been given for nearly four decades to help improve the lives of my fellow Mainers."

In a statement following Snowe's announcement, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Executive Director Guy Cecil said the organization would be "in position" to "seize on" the opportunity Snowe's retirement will present to Senate Democrats, who are attempting to hold on to a slim majority in the Senate.

"As we said from day one, unexpected opportunities will emerge and the DSCC will be in a position to seize on these opportunities," Cecil said in the statement. "Maine is now a top pick up opportunity for Senate Democrats. If there is one place in the country that is likely to reject the extreme, anti-middle class, divisive agenda Republican agenda it is Maine."