Lucia M. Cormier, a former Maine state legislator who in 1960 lost to Sen. Margaret Chase Smith in the nation’s first U.S. Senate race between two women, died Tuesday in Daytona Beach, Fla. She was 83.
As the first woman to be a floor leader in the Maine House of Representatives, Cormier played a key role in the Democratic Party’s resurgence in Maine in the 1950s.
In 1960, after 12 years in the Legislature, Cormier challenged Smith’s re-election in the nation’s first Senate race between two women. But Smith, first elected to the Senate in 1948, won handily in her bid for a third term.
Cormier put on the strongest campaign of her life, but it wasn’t good enough. She lost by a record margin of 97,000 votes.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Cormier as collector of customs for Maine and New Hampshire. She served as collector and later as district Customs Service director until her retirement in 1974.
Born in the paper mill town of Rumford in 1911, she was educated at St. Elizabeth’s College in Morristown, N.J. She taught high school French and Spanish in Rumford for several years, then opened a gift and stationery store there in 1945.
Cormier got into politics by attending a Democratic town meeting in 1945 as “something to do for an evening.” Two years later, she was a state representative, then served as Democratic national committeewoman for Maine and in 1950 lost a congressional campaign.
Always interested in education, she served for a time as a trustee of the University of Maine.
Cormier, who never married, is survived by nieces, nephews and cousins.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated Saturday at St. Athanasius-St. John Church in Rumford.