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Olympia Snowe won't seek re-election in 2012


In a surprise to political observers, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) has announced she will not be seeking re-election this year, giving Democrats a potential pick-up opportunity as they try to hold on to control of the U.S. Senate this election season.

"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 a statement.

And Snowe cited the increased political "polariziation" as the reason for her retirement.

"As I have long said, what motivates me is producing results for those who have entrusted me to be their voice and their champion, and I am filled with that same sense of responsibility today as I was on my first day in the Maine House of Representatives.  I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions."

She continued, "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. 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."  

Currently, Democrats hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. Republicans would need to pick up four seats to take control of the Senate if Obama wins re-election -- and three if he doesn't (since the vice president gets to cast the tie-breaking vote).