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Saturday, March 03, 2012

Maine's Dirigo Senator Snowe: Tributes and Opportunities

Maine is like one big small town, with about 1.3 million people spread out over an entire state, larger in size than all the other New England states put together.

That's why most Maine people are lucky enough to get to know our leaders, like Senator Olympia Snowe and others who are lined up to take her vote in the US Senate, now that she's decided to, sadly, step aside.

Maine's state motto, for those who are reading "from away" is the Latin for "I Lead". Senator Snowe was a leader for Maine, but her leaving the Senate also leads a list of capable others who want to take her place.

It's been my honor and privileged to know Senator Olympia Snowe, even before she was a US Senator.
In fact, my mother and Senator Snowe were pen pals for awhile during the 1980s. Senator Snowe graciously answered the letters my mother sent to her about issues relating to the elderly, Social Security and Medicare. During my work in public policy, my nursing colleagues and I could always count on Senator Snowe to meet with us personally, to listen attentively to our concerns about how she could help improve the quality of life for all Americans, especially for her constituents, the Maine citizens.

But now our Dirigo Senator made a decision to step aside because, she explains, the polarizing political climate in Washington DC does not go away after the campaign to win elections subsides.  She told a supportive audience in South Portland a few days ago that she has become discouraged because campaigning does not stop after the elections are over.  Working as a Senator for an 6 additional years, during another term,  was not how she wanted to  lead. To paraphrase those who know her, at the end of the day, she's a political giant who believes compromise is good for our nation.

Thank you Senator Snowe for your candor, your wonderful public service and dedication to the principals of excellent political leadership.

Of course, this wistful announcement creates opportunities for a line up of capable political leaders who aspire to fill Senator Snowe's role and her pivotal vote in the US Senate.  Republicans had come to depend on Senator Snowe for their head count votes, but now, she will almost certainly be replaced by a more moderate or even a Democratic party leader.

Although I'm certainly not a political fortune teller, knowing the candidates helps when thinking ahead to who might fill Senator Snowe's amazing legacy.  A focus on the line up includes but is certainly not limited to Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, a Democrat; former Governor John Baldacci a Democrat; gubernatorial candidate and Independent Eliot Cutler and former Maine Governor and Independent Angus King.

Although there are other names, my prediction is that the person elected to be the next and newest US Senator from Maine will be one of the above.

And the good news is this - any one of the capable leaders in my names list will serve Maine people well. Moreover, each one has already been thoroughly vetted through close and personal Maine elections.

We know our candidates!

But, the bad news, Senator Snowe's retirement notwithstanding, is that a grueling primary between these potential candidates could inflict completely unnecessary damage to these leaders, causing a political situation something like the muckraking going on with the US Republican presidential primaries.

Let's practice what we preach in Maine.  "Dirigo" means the candidates must put their personal egos aside and defer to the one among them who is best able to fulfill the state's motto.

Whoever political person is chosen - especially if it's one from my list, I wish them God speed and they will have my support.  This Senate election could be an example to America about how Maine pragmatically gets things done.



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