Senator Barbara Mikulski is not running for re-election as Senator from Maryland. This story has been circulating around Maryland for quite some time. See previous commentary.
A social worker, community organizer, Councilwoman, and member of the House of Representatives before serving in the Senate for nearly 30 years, Mikulski has become a staple of Maryland politics. Mikulski is the longest serving congresswoman in history and the first female Senator from the State of Maryland.
Mikulski’s retirement brings the already numerous Democratic forces behind the scenes in Maryland jockeying for the nomination into the light. While the election of Republican Governor Larry Hogan certainly does not give the Democrats the foregone conclusion of retaining Mikulski’s seat, the reality is that any Republican is an underdog at this point. Here’s a brief rundown of the two people to watch right now:
Representative Chris Van Hollen: Member of the House of Representatives hailing from the ludicrously gerrymandered 8th Congressional District of Maryland. Close with both Minority Leader Pelosi, who herself has strong connections with the State of Maryland, and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Van Hollen has been courting the Senate seat in the Democratic Party. Because of the perceived lack of national gravitas of former Governor O’Malley, Van Hollen is counting on support from the national Democratic Party to push out other contenders.
Former Governor Martin O’Malley: It looks like Senator Mikulski has called O’Malley’s bluff on running for President. Most insiders say that O’Malley has been keeping the Presidential speculation alive in order to remain relevant to Maryland and Washington news sources. O’Malley would love to have the power that comes with being an ex-two-term governor as well as a senator from which to launch a bid for the presidency in 2020. O’Malley feels betrayed by the current Democratic leadership in Congress who have united behind Van Hollen in opposition to O’Malley’s candidacy. O’Malley’s recent humiliation in his Lieutenant Governor, Anthony Brown’s defeat to Republican Larry Hogan is giving many Marylanders pause regarding his suitability and electability. ON TUESDAY, 3/3/15, O’MALLEY ANNOUNCED THAT HE WOULD NOT SEEK THE SENATE SEAT.
Representative Donna Edwards: As the first African-American woman elected to Congress in Maryland, Representative Edwards got to her position by beating out 15-year incumbent Albert Wynn in the 2008 Democratic Primary. One of several African-Americans likely to vie for Mikulski’s seat, Edwards is seen as a clear contender to keep the seat with a woman. Edwards’ vocal opposition to current campaign finance laws and her activism while a member of Congress makes her a formidable presence but also may belie a lack of statecraft. However, in a state with a heavy African-American Democrat population, Edwards could make waves in the primary.
At the moment, these are the two main Democratic camps in play. Be sure that, as fractures start to spread out from the Mikulski departure, there will be a few other candidates coming into focus. A few names being thrown around like Representative John Sarbanes will be interesting in the coming months.