Matt McDaniel

4 minute read

File:Donna Edwards Official.jpgRepresentative Donna Edwards from MD04 is expected to announce her candidacy for the US Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski, who is not seeking re-election in 2016. According to the Washington Post and sources close to Edwards, Maryland’s first black congresswoman will announce her candidacy on Tuesday.

Edwards’ announcement will set off a grueling fight between two (or more) powerhouses in the Maryland Democratic Party. Already in the race is Representative Chris Van Hollen of MD08, a congressman close to the upper echelons of the Democratic Party in the House. Mere days after Van Hollen’s announcement that he would seek Mikulski’s seat, he was endorsed by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Van Hollen’s decision to run came rapidly on the heels of Mikulski’s announcement. While most politics watchers were unsurprised by Van Hollen’s decision to run, it now appears that the quickness of his entry into the race was meant to stave off other challengers. One potential threat, former Governor Martin O’Malley, decided not to enter the race as he continues to gain a degree of national attention over a presumptive bid for the White House. However, Van Hollen’s easy accession to Mikulski’s seat is certainly not guaranteed.

Donna Edwards, who is in her fourth term representing parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, has strong appeal to Democratic constituencies in Maryland. In one sense, if the race is only divided between Van Hollen and Edwards, the decision would likely come down to Edwards’ appeal to Democrat base voters, including women and minorities, versus Van Hollen’s national prominence, fundraising, and endorsements.

Edwards’ voting record in Congress is fairly close to Van Hollen’s, so voters looking to find some light between the two on social and political issues aren’t likely to find much differentiation. Edwards sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology as well as the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Ms. Edwards, on February 26, 2015, has sponsored a Constitutional Amendment (HJ Res 36) along with Mr. Van Hollen, that would allow Congress to impose restrictions on political speech by corporations. This likely comes in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United which allowed for nearly unlimited political speech by corporations.

Representative Edwards has voted with her Party 94% of the time. Notable in recent news, Edwards joined other members of her party who skipped the joint-session of Congress where Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke about the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Edwards, who was arrested during a protest in April of 2009 outside of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington DC while a sitting member of Congress, is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Populist Caucus. her 2014 re-election campaign, Edwards’ top donations came from Unions (Public Sector, Transportation and Building totaling $133,750). Edwards raised a total of $573,483 in her bid for re-election. This is considerably less than most of her congressional counterparts who averaged around $1.5M. Edwards received 69% of her campaign money from Political Action Committees (PACs) and 30% from individuals. Of that 30%, over 90% came from large individual contributions. The majority of PAC money came from labor. This has been consistent in Edwards’ four campaigns. She was buoyed in 2008 and 2010 by similarly large percentages of contributions from “single-issue” donors.

Though the campaign is still in its infancy, Edwards’ fundraising is dwarfed by Van Hollen’s in the last several election cycles. Especially if Van Hollen is able to bring money in from out of state, as well as getting additional national-level endorsements, Edwards’ road to the nomination looks precarious. Added to this is the reality that there are likely to be several other candidates jumping into the Maryland Senate race. In the event that Edwards’ primary constituencies are undermined (for example if Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake were to enter the race), Edwards could see fundraising dry up.

At the moment, it looks like Edwards has an uphill slog to beat Van Hollen, but this does not appear to be deterring her desire to make a run for Mikulski’s seat.