McKernan (R) ultimately won another term as governor, and Snowe won another term in the House. Four years later, she joined the Senate. She is retiring next month after a combined 34 years in Congress with several historic distinctions to her name: She is the first woman in U.S. history to serve in both chambers of a state legislature and both chambers of Congress. She was the first Greek American woman to serve in Congress, the youngest Republican woman elected to the House and the first Republican woman to serve on the Senate Finance Committee.
Throughout the years, Snowe said, being married to another politician made life in Washington easier.
“We both understand what the challenges and the pressures are when you’re in the political environment,” she said. “You don’t have to explain anything. From that standpoint, he’s been great support for me over the years. It’s easy to share things with someone who understands what you’re dealing with, what you’re going through.”
In the years since Snowe married McKernan, other political couples have risen in the public eye. Former senators Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) ran separate presidential campaigns in 1996 and 2000. Former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was elected as a Democratic senator from New York in 2000 before losing her 2008 bid for president and then serving as secretary of state under President Obama. But Reps. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) and Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), the House’s only current husband-and-wife team, both lost their races this year, and Iowa’s former first lady Christie Vilsack mounted an unsuccessful run for Congress. In the years to come, polling data suggests that Michelle Obama could win Illinois’s 2016 U.S. Senate race, although the first lady has not indicated a desire to seek public office.
No matter how political spouses decide to spend their time, Snowe said, communication is key.
“Keep in touch every day if you’re separated by miles,” she said. “I was commuting, obviously, and he [McKernan] was in the capital city of Augusta. But we talked every day and shared what was going on in the day, so you always kept up so you weren’t having to catch up at the end of a week. It made a difference.”
Snowe has been one of the Senate’s more moderate Republicans, known for a willingness to cross the aisle and support Democratic initiatives. When most Republicans supported impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, she voted to acquit, saying that his alleged perjury didn’t warrant his removal from office.