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Harry Reid Backs Maryland Senate Candidate

Van Hollen is running for Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In an unusual move, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has endorsed Rep. Chris Van Hollen for the newly open Senate seat in Maryland.  

Van Hollen, a Democrat, announced Wednesday he would run for the Senate seat, after Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., announced she would not seek another term. But Reid's endorsement comes as a number of other House Democrats  publicly mull the Senate race. “I enthusiastically endorse Chris Van Hollen for the United States Senate," Reid of Nevada said in a statement. "Not only would Chris Van Hollen be the best and most effective person for the job, I have no doubt that he is in the best and strongest position to make sure that this Senate seat remains in Democratic hands in a State that just elected a Republican Governor."  

Other Maryland Democrats considering bids include Reps. Donna Edwards, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and John Delaney. Outside of Congress, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Del. Heather Mizeur, and former NAACP President Ben Jealous have expressed interest in running.  

The endorsement from the Democratic leader could be an attempt to avoid a fractious primary that would purge the ranks of the Maryland House delegation.  

In a tweet Friday, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director Justin Barasky distanced the committee from Reid's endorsement, writing: "The DSCC remains excited about the deep bench of Democrats in Maryland and are confident we will hold this seat."  

Reid also touted Van Hollen's credentials as someone who "will stand with me to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare as he has done his whole career" — a comment perhaps targeted at groups like MoveOn.org, who raised questions about Van Hollen's stance on Social Security following his announcement.  

“I know he will be missed in the House of Representatives," Reid said. "But I have no doubt that he will be an outspoken champion for democratic values in the United States Senate.”  

Indeed, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the New York Times this week that she was trying to talk Van Hollen out of running for Senate.  

Related: Van Hollen May Not Have Field to Himself (Updated) Is the Senate Where It’s At for Ambitious House Democrats? The Maryland Democrat Who Wants to Stay Where He Is Democratic Floodgates Open for Maryland House Seat Long List of Possible Barbara Mikulski Successors Mikulski Will Not Seek Another Term (Updated) The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.