Van Hollen May Not Have Field to Himself (Updated)
Updated 5:50 p.m. | Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen announced Wednesday he will run for the seat of retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, moving swiftly as numerous other ambitious Democrats have their eye on the race.
“I am excited to share that I have decided to run for the United States Senate from our great State of Maryland,” Van Hollen said in a statement . The seven-term congressman’s move comes just two days after Mikulski announced she wouldn’t seek another term and with nearly every other member of Maryland’s congressional delegation pondering whether to run for just the second open Senate seat in the last 30 years.
Rep. Donna Edwards told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday she is seriously considering a bid and would make a decision soon.
“I’ve made quite clear that I’m interested in running,” she said. “I see a pathway to succeeding Barbara Mikulski.”
As for a timeline, Edwards said, “give me a couple of days or so, and I’ll figure it all out.” Van Hollen confirmed his candidacy just a couple of hours later, but Edwards made clear she had no compunction about running against her colleagues.
“Was it a factor to me when I ran for Congress against a seven-term incumbent and every bit of the establishment was against me? Not really,” she said, referring to her first election to Congress when she ousted fellow Democrat Al Wynn.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who is also considering a bid, greeted reporters’ questions Wednesday with a hearty laugh. He confirmed as he walked away, “That’s not a no.”
Other members of the delegation are also reportedly considering it. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger told Bloomberg he was giving the possibility of running “very serious consideration,” and Rep. John Delaney tweeted Monday that he “will explore a race for Senate.”
Rep. John Sarbanes, the son of longtime former Sen. Paul Sarbanes, is also seriously considering a bid, a spokesman said.
The race is rated Safe Democratic by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
While several potential contenders outside Congress are considering the race, former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is considering a presidential bid, announced Tuesday morning he wouldn’t run for the open Senate seat. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Anthony Brown are looking at it, while Democratic sources mention U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez as someone who could be a formidable candidate.
Van Hollen was elected to the House in 2002 after 12 years in the state legislature. He served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles before taking over as ranking member on the House Budget Committee in 2011.
Whether or not he wins the Senate race, Van Hollen’s exit from the chamber will have some major ripple effects throughout the House Democratic Caucus.
Van Hollen was widely considered a likely ascendant to the leadership ranks as one of the most nationally visible and recognizable House Democrats outside of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer and a few others. He established himself as a policy wonk as the top Democrat on the Budget Committee but showed he was also a strong party messenger who could break down complex policy ideas and have them resonate with voters.
If Pelosi retires in the coming years, Hoyer, a fellow Marylander, would likely make a play to succeed her. Van Hollen’s departure removes a competitive barrier for those who fall beneath the current No. 2 House Democrat.
It might change political calculations for Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. He is weighing a run for Senate to succeed retiring Democrat Barbara Boxer, but Van Hollen’s exit could offer more incentive to stick around the House and be the first Latino Democratic leader. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz could also decide against running for Senate, a possibility she’s been eying in the event GOP Sen. Marco Rubio gives up his seat to run for president.
Van Hollen’s Senate run also offers an opening for two ambitious New Yorkers, Caucus Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley and Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairman Steve Israel.
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