The Maine Democratic Party existed before Edmund Muskie, but his surprising gubernatorial win in 1954 marked a turning point in its history. Muskie was the first Democrat Governor of Maine in nearly 20 years, and only the second in the preceding 40 years. The 1952 election of President Eisenhower, a Republican, triggered a sea change in the Maine Democratic Party. With the national Party’s loss of the White House, Maine Democrats lost the patronage that had sustained their influence for decades, and senior party members began to retire from leadership, creating timely opportunities for younger men like Muskie, Don Nicoll and Frank Coffin. The Democrats had a tough time recruiting someone to run for governor in 1954. After all other potential candidates declined, Muskie, a former state representative who was still recovering from the physical and financial effects of a broken back he suffered in 1953, reluctantly agreed to run. Hard campaigning and an intimate knowledge of the state gained during his direction of the Office of Price Stabilization paid off for Muskie when he surprised nearly everyone by winning. His election was so noteworthy that it earned him momentary national attention, including an appearance on NBC’s Today show and a spread in Life magazine. After two successful terms as governor, Muskie made history again in 1958 when he was the first Maine Democrat elected by popular vote to the U.S. Senate.
Staffers in Muskie’s Washington and Maine offices numbered as many as two dozen at any time, not counting the dozens more employed on campaign and committee staffs. Each performed duties crucial to the Senator’s daily success: researching issues, drafting legislation, scheduling, interacting with constituents, answering mail, issuing press releases, preparing speeches, and managing the entire operation. Some of the more well-known Muskie alumni include: • Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright • Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell • Political commentator Mark Shields • U.S. Representative Tom Allen • Former National Security Advisor Tony Lake
Marjorie Hutchinson was first hired by Muskie around 1940 as his law office secretary. She moved to his gubernatorial office in 1954 and then to his Waterville senate office, where she worked until her retirement in 1976. Joan Arnold, who also worked in the governor’s office, told this story about Hutchinson and Muskie in a 1998 oral history: But she not only was the perfect secretary and very bright and charming and capable, she also had a little motherly touch with him, too…I don’t think people would think of him as being receptive to a woman in his office being motherly to him, but he certainly was with Marge…I can remember when photographers were getting ready to go into his office…Margorie was always, always in that office at the very last minute…with a little hair brush, calming the curls down. He had very curly hair, and she would be…getting the hair just so, so he wouldn’t have curls flying all over his head.
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