UPPER MARLBORO – A week after Senator Barbara Mikulski announced her retirement, Rep. Donna Edwards (District 4) announced to supporters Tuesday she has decided to run for the seat in the 2016 election. If elected, Edwards would become the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in the Senate, according to her announcement. “For 30 years, […]
UPPER MARLBORO – A week after Senator Barbara Mikulski announced her retirement, Rep. Donna Edwards (District 4) announced to supporters Tuesday she has decided to run for the seat in the 2016 election.
If elected, Edwards would become the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in the Senate, according to her announcement.
“For 30 years, Senator Barbara Mikulski has been a fighter for Maryland and you. And when I step into her shoes, I’ll be a fighter for you, too,” Edwards said. “Let’s win this fight together.”
After Mikulski’s announcement on March 2, several officials in the state came forward expressing interest in running for Mikulski’s seat.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (District 8) announced his plans to run last week. Edwards’ announcement came after speculation from county supporters and after her spokesman Ben Gerdes said she was “seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate.”
After her announcement, Edwards quickly began racking up support from other officials, including former Lt. Governor and gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown.
“Representative Donna Edwards brings a record of progressive values and real results to the Senate race and I applaud her for seeking to serve all Marylanders,” Brown said. “Donna and I have worked together to reduce domestic violence in our communities, provide our veterans with the services they’ve earned and deliver hundreds of high-paying BRAC jobs to Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County. I am encouraged that such a broad and diverse field of Democratic candidates are rising to carry on the tradition of effective leadership that Senator Mikulski embodies.”
Edwards said her ongoing fight for progressive issues such as women’s rights, investing in historically black colleges and passing a NASA bill to back jobs in the state make her a viable candidate in the Senate race.
Several other names, predominantly Democratic in the larger Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, have also popped up in the potential Senate race, including Reps. John Sarbanes and John Delaney as well as County Executive Rushern Baker III, who just began his second term in office.
Barry Hudson, manager of communications for the county executive, said Baker has not solidified or speculated plans to run for any office.
“At this point, he has not put thought into any run,” Hudson said Friday. “He’s focused on being the county executive of Prince George’s County, and he has not focused at all on anything but that because that’s the election he just won, and that’s the responsibility he has.”
Hudson said Mikulski’s announcement came as a surprise to Baker, and he is looking forward to the rest of her time serving as senator.
Scott Peterson, press secretary for the office of the county executive, said Baker has not endorsed any candidates who have announced they are running for Senate.
“What you potentially have shaping up here is a real contest for various pockets of Democratic support,” said Trevor Parry-Giles, a professor of political communication at the University of Maryland, College Park. “Any Democrat running is going to be concentrating their efforts on the pool of Democrats who live in the county.”
Montgomery County officials have come out in open support of Van Hollen’s decision to run. If Edwards were to run, Prince George’s County could come out in support of her, Parry-Giles said.
Although Baker has not endorsed any candidates, County Council Chairman Mel Franklin said Tuesday afternoon he will endorse Edwards.
“I think it’s a big sort of step. Obviously she would be the first African American woman to serve on the U.S. Senate for Maryland which is a sizeable step for diversity,” Franklin said. “It would also be important for Prince George’s County in terms of its continued place as one of Maryland’s largest jurisdictions. I think it further makes that point. But I think she’s going to be great for the whole state. I don’t think she’s going to be just a Prince George’s County U.S. Senator—I think she’s going to be a tremendous representative with progressive ideals for the entire state and really help move the country forward.”
Franklin said he thinks Edwards will have a good chance to win because of support he expects her to get nationally, as well as from local officials and progressive groups.
Former state Delegate Aisha Braveboy, who ran for Maryland attorney general last year, said on her Facebook page she will endorse Edwards, calling her a “good friend.”
“(Edwards) is a proven, trusted leader who is not afraid to fight for social security, medicare and medicaid. As a young member of Congress, she was tapped to preside over part of the Affordable Care Act debate,” Braveboy said. “She has been the leading fighter to raise the federal minimum wage and has stood up for paid sick leave. She is the only candidate who we can trust will fight for small businesses, affordable student loans, HBCUs, police reform, economic justice, campaign finance reform and responsible redistricting.”
Edwards is an interesting candidate, Parry-Giles said, because her district covers areas near Montgomery County as well as Prince George’s, which could perhaps pull in support from both counties.
“She could be a real threat. She’s a good candidate, and she’s smart,” Parry-Giles said. “It’s safe to say she’s arguably one of the up-and-coming African-American leaders in American politics.”
But on the other hand, Parry-Giles said, if former Delegate Heather Mizeur decides to run for a U.S. Senate seat, she could potentially gain the votes that Edwards could have counted on, as well as some of the Montgomery County votes that could go to Van Hollen.
“They’re all attempting to lock out potential rivals and prevent this kind of fragmentation that’s likely to happen if too many people get involved with it,” he said. “The strategy of declaring early and quickly is an attempt to crowd out those lesser-known folks from entering the race.”
While Parry-Giles said he does not think a clear front-runner exists right now, as more people start to declare their plans for candidacy, other wild cards could start popping up and divide the race further.
“It’s shaping up to be fascinating, and a real battle that will be interesting to watch,” Parry-Giles said. “Anybody running for this seat is going to have a lot of work to do.”
With Edwards running, her seat in the House of Representatives opens up. Baker remains focused on serving as county executive, and Franklin said he does not want to run for the seat because he does not live in the district’s boundaries.
“Even though that’s technically not a requirement, I think that’s a good idea to live in the district you run in,” Franklin said. “But folks who I know that are interested, I think it’s going to be a very wide-open and competitive field.”
Sentinel reporter Michael Sykes contributed to this report.