Olympia Snowe’s dedicated work in the U.S. Senate has garnered her nationwide recognition as a leading policymaker in Washington. In 2005, she was named the 54th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine. In 2006, Time magazine named her one of the top ten U.S. Senators. Calling her “The Caretaker,” it wrote of Snowe: “Because of her centrist views and eagerness to get beyond partisan point scoring, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe is in the center of every policy debate in Washington, but while Snowe is a major player on national issues, she is also known as one of the most effective advocates for her constituents.”
With her election in 1994, Olympia J. Snowe became only the second woman Senator in history to represent Maine, following the late Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, who served from 1949 – 1973. In November 2006, she was re-elected to a third six-year term in the United States Senate with 74 percent of the vote.
Before her election to the Senate, Olympia Snowe represented Maine’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for sixteen years. Senator Snowe is only the fourth woman in history to be elected to both houses of Congress and the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress. When first elected to Congress in 1978, at the age of 31, Olympia Snowe was the youngest Republican woman, and the first Greek-American woman, ever elected to Congress. She has won more federal elections in Maine than any other person since World War II.
Focusing her attention on efforts to build bipartisan consensus on key issues that matter to Maine and America, Snowe had built a reputation as one of the Congress’ leading moderates. In 1999, she was cited by Congressional Quarterly for her centrist leadership, and is co-chair with Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) of a bipartisan, consensus building group in the Senate called the Common Ground Coalition – a forum for communication and cooperation between Senate Democrats and Republicans.
During her time in the Senate, Senator Snowe worked extensively on a number of issues, such as budget and fiscal responsibility; education, including student financial aid and education technology; national security; women’s issues; health care, including prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients; welfare reform; oceans and fisheries issues; and campaign finance reform.
During her tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, she 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 former House Select Committee on Aging, where she was Ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Human Services.
She served in both Houses of the Maine Legislature, first elected to the Maine House – representing her home town of Auburn – in 1973 to the seat left vacant by the death of her first husband, the late Peter Snowe, in an auto accident. She was re-elected in 1974, and was elected to the Maine Senate representing Androscoggin County in 1976.