Three-term Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine announced Tuesday that she will not run for re-election, issuing a statement that cited frustration over the current "atmosphere of polarization and `my way or the highway' ideologies."
Snowe, who's viewed as a moderate, said she sees a "vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us." She said she sees opportunities to build support for such change from outside the Senate.
The senator's campaign office issued her statement Tuesday afternoon, and it was confirmed by her campaign manager, Justin Brasell. He said the statement would speak for itself.
Snowe, who has served 33 years in Congress, said she was confident she would've won re-election and will be retiring from the Senate in good health.
"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."
Fellow GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine called Snowe's decision a "complete surprise."
Snowe's announcement is a boost to Democrats who suddenly have a shot at the seat and were facing tough odds this election cycle. The Democrats are trying to hold onto seven open seats, the Republicans now have three, including Snowe.
Democrats hold a 51-47 majority with two independents who caucus with the Democrats.
This article was originally published on February 28, 2012.
This program aired on February 28, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.