Retiring Mikulski Creates Political “Land Rush” in the State

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As Maryland’s senior Senator Barbara Mikulski prepares to finish up her last term in the U.S. Senate, politicians across the state are gearing up to run for her seat in what has been called a political “land rush.”

Sitting Maryland representatives in the U.S. Congress would have to give up their seats to run to replace Mikulski, a Democrat, who announced Monday she would not run in 2016 after 38 years in Congress.

Both Reps. John Delaney, D-Potomac, and Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersburger, D-Cockeysville, have confirmed they are planning on exploring a campaign, while Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, and Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, both said they were giving the run “serious consideration.”

As Congressional seats become vacant, they tend to be filled from the ranks of the General Assembly. Those seats would, in turn, need to be filled.

“This is going to affect the entire political food chain in Maryland,” political commentator Blair Lee IV said. “Every 20 or 30 years, it’s like musical chairs — some are sitting down and some are standing up when the music stops playing.”

“There’s going to be a lot of new faces and new jobs,” Lee said. “2016 in Maryland is going to be historic, not a boring election year.”

Lee said if he had to put money on a candidate, he would put it on Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington.

For the last 30 years, both U.S. senators have come from Baltimore, which, Lee said, has created a power shift that will favor candidates beyond that area.

He also emphasized gender and race as important factors, saying that Edwards, as an African-American woman, checks off a lot of boxes that make her a potentially winning candidate.

“How long can you tell African-Americans it’s not their turn yet?” Lee said.

Edwards’s office on Tuesday declined comment on whether she would run for the Senate seat.

But for Barry Rascovar, a political commentator and former journalist for the Washington Post, it will be the incumbents and recognizable names who will have the best shot at filling Mikulski’s big shoes.

“I think those are the ones that are going to be polling the best,” Rascovar said. “There will be other names in the race, but I don’t think they’ll be the favorites.”

Many Maryland congressional members may be considering running at this moment, but once one of them announces they’re officially running, the others will probably back off, Rascovar said.

Rascovar’s initial favorite for the position was former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, who announced Tuesday morning that he would not seek Mikulski’s spot in the Senate. O’Malley is exploring a run for U.S. President.

With O’Malley out, Rascovar named Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, as the favorite to run. Van Hollen did not return messages left at his office for comment on his plans, and neither did Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, and Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville.

Mileah Kromer, a professor of political science at Goucher College, said this senatorial race could show just how Democratic Maryland is — a state that boasts a two-to-one Democratic majority over Republicans — despite the recent win by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

“It’ll be interesting to see if Hogan does a good job and wins public approval, if that can help carry a Republican into the Senate,” Kromer said.

But since 2016 will be a presidential year, Lee said, he expects Marylanders to vote as a strong blue state, since presidential elections tend to turn out the African-American communities and the youth vote, which are both largely Democratic.

Rascovar said that the “land rush” is an unlikely possibility.

“These people have worked hard to win their congressional seats, and they’re not going to give it up lightly,” he said. “It’s probably a long shot that we’re going to have a stampede of congressional incumbents giving up their seats to get a shot at the Senate.”

But deciding to run for Senate is more complicated than a single-focused “land rush,” Kromer said, because these politicians’ radars span beyond one office.

“It’s not just a Senate race, but also a governor’s race,” Kromer said. “So it’s a land rush not all at once, but over the next four years.”

By AnjaliShastry and Grace Toohey

Letters to Editor

  1. Gren Whitman says:

    Rep. Donna Edwards … or former Del. Heather Mizeur … and I’ll sleep at night!

    • Gerry Maynes says:

      I just got a terrific vision and a great chuckle over the vision of Martin Omalley the Democrat candidate for president in a debate with any leading Republican candidate for president, Where the Republican asks, How do you go about taxing the rain? and If he was willing to tax the rain , what else would he tax? Gosh, you can!t make this stuff up! I would not be so sure that this seat will go to a Democrat, Didn!t this stae just vote Mr Hogan as its head of state?

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