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Smith vs. Cormier, 1960


Time Magazine Cover: Smith vs. Cormier

It may sound like a prize fight, but this contest was a historic election between two contenders for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Democratic candidate Lucia Cormier, Maine state representative, challenged the popular Republican incumbent, Margaret Chase Smith. For the first time in Senate history, both major party candidates were women. In an era when female candidates were still unusual, the high-profile contest gained a good deal of chauvinistic press attention. Reporters predicted scenes of “hair-pulling” and “eye-scratching.” Ignored by such pundits was the fact that the two women were experienced legislators and longtime colleagues. Smith and Cormier ran strong campaigns that culminated in one of the first televised debates on November 6, 1960. Two days later, Smith won the so-called “Petticoat Race,” taking 62 percent of the vote.