Maine political leaders react to Kennedy’s death

Posted Aug. 26, 2009, at 10:31 a.m.

The following are comments from the Maine congressional delegation and governor on the passing of Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy:

Sen. Susan Collins:

“With the passing of Senator Kennedy, our country has lost a giant of the Senate, and those of us who served with him have lost a warm, big-hearted, generous friend.

“Ted served the people of his state and our nation through five decades. His remarkable record of legislation has touched virtually every American.

“I worked most closely with Ted on education issues, joining with him to expand Pell grants which help low-income families afford college. We also worked together for years on the Senate Armed Services Committee where we advocated for a strong Navy.

“But my warmest memories of Ted are personal. He loved the coast of Maine and once told me there was no better sailing than Penobscot Bay.

“We shared pride in our Irish heritage. Ted once gave me a book written by his mother for my mother. It was those countless kind gestures that I will remember most about Ted.

“I will miss Ted so much.”

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe:

“Today, our nation, New England, and the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts have lost an indisputable ‘lion of the institution of the United State Senate’ – a venerable, legislative giant and political icon the likes of whom we will never likely witness again in our lifetime, Senator Ted Kennedy.

“Part and parcel, however, of his historic and over-arching legacy was not just the result of his hard-fought labors which have reached every corner of our country, but how he legislated and conducted the challenging task of advancing the public policy process. No one has ever reached across party lines with as much efficacy, facility, and affability as Ted Kennedy. Where there was a divide, he saw an opportunity to repair the breach. Where there were opposing forces, he resolved to find a point of alliance. Above all, he could disagree without being disagreeable. He was a legislator’s legislator – the best of our generation.

“Senator Kennedy also possessed a lifelong joy and exuberance which were contagious. We both shared a mutual love for the Maine coast, which he sailed every summer, and for the Boston Red Sox. To paraphrase the immortal words of the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson – whom he often cited, he was a part of all that he had met. He will forever be an integral part of the fabric of this great land which he served with such ardor, zeal, and love. He will be sorely missed.

“For nearly half a century, Senator Kennedy gave voice to the voiceless with a powerful booming resonance that was always raised on behalf of those less fortunate, and he championed causes others with less courage and skill would not dare tackle, including healthcare reform which was a passion throughout his entire public service tenure. I was incredibly privileged to work with him on several watershed measures, from the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program and the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), which was passed and signed into law earlier this year, to the landmark Genetic Nondiscrimination Act or GINA – which was finally enacted into law last year, after more than a decade, because of his tireless leadership and relentless efforts. I was also inexpressibly honored to serve with Senator Kennedy on the Profile in Courage Committee which I have been on since 1999, and how fitting it was that he recently received that distinguished accolade himself.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his extraordinary wife, Vicki, his children – Kara, Edward Jr., and Patrick Kennedy – as well as Curran and Caroline Raclin, and the entire Kennedy family who have done so much to change the course of our nation.”

Second District Rep. Mike Michaud:

“Ted Kennedy inspired me and countless others with his commitment to a life of public service. His passion for what he fought for was always evident and it was something that I admired. He gave a voice to many who didn’t have one in Washington, and his dedication to the causes he championed was never in question.

“Together with his pragmatism and commitment, reaching across the political aisle over the years made him an extremely effective and influential figure in American politics. From health care to education to workers’ rights, Ted Kennedy has always been at the forefront of the major legislative battles of our time. His work and leadership have brought about change that will be felt for generations to come.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”

First District Rep. Chellie Pingree:

“I am deeply saddened by the death of Senator Kennedy. He was an inspiration to all of us and his contributions to this country will be felt for generations to come.”

“Because of Senator Kennedy’s work, millions of children and seniors have access to health care, millions of young people have been able to afford college and millions of working Americans earn more because of increases in the minimum wage.”

“One of Senator Kennedy’s greatest dreams was universal access to affordable health care for all American’s, and it’s in part because of his efforts that we are debating health care reform in Congress today.”

Gov. John Baldacci:

“Sen. Kennedy was an inspirational leader and a good friend of mine and my family,” Governor Baldacci said. “He has been at the center of the most important public policy debates of my generation and through it all he fought for those without a voice of their own. He believed in fairness and opportunity, and while a ferocious fighter for what he thought was right, Sen. Kennedy always managed to reach across the aisle to find common ground.”

“I am deeply saddened by Sen. Kennedy’s death. He was a lion of a man, and will be missed by a nation grateful for his lifetime of service.”

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