WASHINGTON — Back in February, Sen. Olympia Snowe publicly aired her frustrations with the political polarization in Washington, D.C. Now, as Snowe’s 33-year congressional career winds down, she is becoming increasingly vocal about the need for change in Washington.

Snowe has spoken recently about her desire to change the Senate filibuster and other procedures employed by the minority party to stymie legislation (even as she and other Republicans continue to use those procedures, critics point out).

In speeches and op-eds, she has repeatedly urged voters to support consensus-building candidates and, to that end, announced plans this past week to use $800,000 of her campaign money for a multi-party political action committee to assist such candidates.

But she also offered some blunt advice for her own party. In an op-ed titled “How the Republican party can win in November” in the Financial Times, Snowe wrote that the increasingly far-right emphasis of the GOP was losing the battle for three key constituencies: women, Hispanics and independents.

“Ultimately, when our platform suggests intolerance and ideological purity, we lose,” Snowe wrote. “But when we advance an aspirational, center-right agenda that makes a difference in people’s daily lives we win.”

Mainers in D.C.

This past week saw a number of Mainers speaking out on Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday, Milbridge resident Ruth Moore told a House subcommittee her heart-wrenching story about being sexually assaulted in the Navy and her 23-year struggle to receive any assistance from the military. Her testimony could help other veterans and active-duty victims of “military sexual trauma.”

That same day, Maine New Balance workers secured a pledge from the White House’s trade ambassador, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, to visit the Maine facilities this fall amid concerns that the U.S. may drop tariffs aimed at protecting domestic shoe manufacturers.

On Thursday, University of Maine oceanographer Andrew Pershing told a congressional subcommittee about his research on how climate change is affecting plankton and, therefore, Atlantic salmon, herring and other important species in the Gulf of Maine.

And UMaine economist Jonathan Rubin participated in a presentation to senators on the National Low Carbon Fuel Standard Project, a somewhat controversial plan to reduce levels of climate-warming carbon levels in transportation fuels.

Weighing in on uniforms

Maine Congressman Mike Michaud, who has long been active on fair-trade issues, has joined the chorus of lawmakers upset that U.S. Olympians will be wearing uniforms made in China when they compete in London later this month.

Michaud, D-District 2, co-led a coalition of 59 members of Congress who signed a letter on Tuesday urging the U.S. Olympic Committee to adopt policies to ensure that — presumably in the future — Olympians’ uniforms are manufactured in this country. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1, was also a co-signer.

With the Olympics just a few weeks away, the bipartisan letter is largely symbolic, however. And while the signers expressed their “outrage” that designer Ralph Lauren had the uniforms made in China, they stopped well short of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s comments last week that they should “take all of the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them.”

“American manufacturing is critical to the soul of the country,” reads the letter to Scott Blackmun, the Olympic Committee’s CEO. “The U.S. textile and apparel industry provides the backbone to many cities and towns. These American companies are capable of making these uniforms at competitive prices. Hard working Americans should have the privilege of manufacturing uniforms for Team USA.”

Potato blossom royalty

A new Maine Potato Blossom Queen will be crowned this weekend in the Aroostook County town of Fort Fairfield during the annual festival that celebrates all things spud-related. And while it won’t be Sen. Olympia Snowe, Maine’s retiring senator might as well be Potato Blossom royalty.

According to her staff, Snowe has marched in every Potato Blossom Festival parade since 1978 .

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