Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has announced her retirement from the Senate. She will serve out the remaining two years of her term and not seek re-election.
Mikulski is the longest-serving congresswoman in history. She served 10 years in the House beginning in 1977 prior to being elected to the Senate in 1986. Her political career began in local Baltimore government before that.
According to the Washington Post:
Mikulski, 78, was the first woman to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee, a post she had to give up this year when the Democrats lost control of the Senate. A social worker turned politician, she has been a forceful presence on many pieces of legislation, passionately liberal on certain issues but also committed to working closely with Republicans.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) released the following statement: “I came to the Senate with Barbara Mikulski and I have had no better friend in my time here than Barbara Mikulski. Barbara Mikulski’s voice has boomed through the halls of the Congress and has helped guide our nation through some of our country’s most trying times.”
In another report, USA Today claims it will be a “free for all.”
The retirement has the potential to reshape both Maryland politics and Congress’s internal leadership. Several of the seven Maryland Democrats in Congress will likely take a look at the race, including Reps. Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cummings, Donna Edwards, John Delaney and possibly Rep. John Sarbanes, whose father also served in the Senate.
Many in Maryland and on Capitol Hill have long viewed Van Hollen, a former aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who lives in Montgomery County, as a likely candidate for Senate once Mikulski stepped aside. In the last six years, however, Van Hollen has become an increasingly loyal understudy of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has at times considered retiring herself. That means a Van Hollen bid for the Senate could also scramble the eventual race to replace Pelosi.
On Monday, Van Hollen called Mikulski “a true champion for the people of Maryland.”
The Senate seat could also be tempting for former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley (D), who is weighing a 2016 presidential bid that has yet to get any traction. Other names being talked about on the Democratic side include Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a former Montgomery County Council member and state-level Cabinet secretary; and former Montgomery County delegate Heather Mizeur, a progressive who performed better than expected in last year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Names being floated on the Republican side include Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).