Allied with PMDB, he was state representative, federal representative, senator, vice-governor and governor of the state Paraíba for three times. Currently he is without any political mandate. In 1967 he allied with PMDB, for which he was elected as state representative, being in charge until 1969.
In 1982 he was promoted to federal representative, and was able to be reelected for this in 1986 for the legislation 1987 - 1991.
In 1990 he returned for the job of federal representative, and was elected the same year for the period 1991 - 1994. In 1994 he was elected vice governor in favor of Antonio Mariz, ending his mandate by the death of the owner, about ten months after he assumed the office of governor.
With a narrow lead, Maranhão wins from Ronaldo at the convention and the PMDB candidate is nominated. In the election for governor, was elected with about 80% of the votes, and the Governor most votes in the country that year in percentage terms, thus re-electing the governor of Paraíba.
In 2001 the family Cunha Lima migrates to PSDB and Maranhão breaks political contact with them.
The year after Maranhão renounces the state government to candidate himself to the senate gaining 831.083 votes, which makes him the senator most voted in Paraíba during that election. In the state government he is replaced by vice-governor Roberto Paulino, who he supports to become the government candidate for PMDB, but is eventually defeated by Cassio Cunha Lima Paulino who wins in the second turn. In 2006, the government again disputed Maranhão Paraíba, this time against the governor Cassio Cunha Lima, who was elected in a runoff for re-election with about 51% of the vote.
After confirmation by the Supreme Electoral Court the forfeiture of Cunha Lima in 2008 by Regional Electoral Court of Paraíba for the misuse of social programs in an election year, Jose Maranhao is re-elected on 17 February in 2009 by Palace of Redemption as the state governor, for being the runner-up in the 2006 elections.
Started his political career as an elected state representative in 1955 for PTB, a party for which he was reelected for two consecutive mandates.