Rochelle M. "Chellie" Pingree (born April 2, 1955) is an American politician. She is a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Maine's 1st congressional district since 2009. The district includes most of the southern part of the state, including Portland and Augusta.
Pingree was a member of the Maine Senate from 1992 to 2000, serving as majority leader from 1996 to 2000. She was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate in 2002, losing to Republican Susan Collins. From 2003 to 2006, she was President and CEO of Common Cause.
She is the first Democratic woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine.
Early life, education, and career
Pingree was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but has lived in Maine since she was a teenager. She attended the University of Southern Maine and graduated from the College of the Atlantic with a degree in Human Ecology. Since graduating from College of the Atlantic, she has lived in North Haven, a small island community 12 miles off Rockland.
Pingree held various farming and care-taking jobs until 1981, when she started North Island Yarn, a cottage industry of hand knitters with a retail store on North Haven. Her business expanded and became North Island Designs, employing as many as ten workers.
They began marketing knitting kits and pattern books nationwide through 1,200 retail stores and 100,000 mail order catalogues. Through North Island Designs, Pingree authored and produced five knitting books between 1986 and 1992.
As Common Cause's leader, Pingree strengthened the organization's programs in media reform and elections, while maintaining programs in ethics and money in politics. Among the specific issues she championed at Common Cause are Net Neutrality; Mandatory Voter-Verified Paper Ballots; Public Financing of Congressional Elections; National Popular Vote (a work-around of the Electoral College), and an Independent Ethics Commission for Congress. She stepped down from Common Cause in February 2007 to return to her home state, in order to run for Congress in 2008.
Pingree was first elected in 1992 at the age of 37, defeating a popular Republican incumbent. She was outspoken against going to war against Iraq, although counseled by party insiders to avoid that subject.
She won re-election a second term in 1996. In 2000, she was forced to leave the Legislature due to term limits.
Pingree served as the Senate Majority Leader in the Maine Senate representing Knox County. She was elected Maine's second female Senate Majority Leader on December 4, 1996.
During her tenure as a state legislator, Pingree led several economic development initiatives including landmark legislation to enhance small business opportunities and keep businesses in Maine. She gained nationwide headlines when she authored the nation's first bill regulating prescription drug prices, Maine Rx. Pingree also shepherded Maine's largest land-bill initiative, Land for Maine's Future.
U.S. House of Representatives
In April 2007, Pingree filed papers for her bid to run for Maine's 1st congressional district. On August 15th, 2007, EMILY's List endorsed Pingree's campaign for Congress in Maine's 1st District. In December 2007 she also received the endorsement of 21st Century Democrats. She was endorsed by a number of labor organizations and many individuals and state officials, including Congressman Rush D. Holt, Jr.; Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky; Maine Senate Majority Leader Libby Mitchell; former Maine Senate Assistant Majority Leader Anne Rand; State Representative Paulette Beaudoin; State Representative Nancy Smith; progressive writer and activist Jim Hightower; the United Auto Workers; Planned Parenthood, and the League of Conservation Voters.
The top contributors to Pingree's campaign were securities and investment industries, providing roughly $123,900,000 in funding.
Key contributors include Paloma Partners, Caremi Partners, and the JStreet PAC, contributing $74.3 million, $16.4 million, and $14.6 million respectively.
Pingree was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on November 4, 2008. She was sworn in to Congress on January 6, 2009.
In 2010, Pingree ran for reelection, and won, defeating Republican challenger Dean Scontras by a 57-43 margin. She overcame strong anti-Democrat and anti-incumbent political sentiment to become just one of eight Democrats in the House of Representatives to receive a higher percentage of the vote than in 2008.
Pingree has three children; the oldest, Hannah Pingree, is the Ex-Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.
On June 18, 2011, Pingree married S. Donald Sussman. The small private ceremony was held at the couple's North Haven home. Pingree met Sussman in 2007 and the two became engaged in 2008.
November 20th, 2011