BETHESDA – Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-8) won the Democratic primary for Senate Tuesday night, defeating Rep. Donna Edwards (D-4) and eight other Democrats with 53 percent of the statewide vote. On the same night, state Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-7) won the Republican nomination with a plurality by topping 13 other GOP contenders, earning 36 […]
BETHESDA – Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-8) won the Democratic primary for Senate Tuesday night, defeating Rep. Donna Edwards (D-4) and eight other Democrats with 53 percent of the statewide vote.
On the same night, state Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-7) won the Republican nomination with a plurality by topping 13 other GOP contenders, earning 36 percent of the statewide vote.
Van Hollen won 21 localities statewide, while Edwards won three: Baltimore City, Charles County and Prince George’s County. She outpaced Van Hollen by nearly a two-to-one margin in Prince George’s County, her home county.
Edwards netted more than 66,000 votes between the three localities she won, but that wasn’t enough to make up her roughly 95,000-vote deficit from Montgomery County alone.
Szeliga, a House of Delegates member from Baltimore County, pulled in 36 percent of the Republican vote, beating her nearest challenger by more than 82,000 votes state-wide.
She said she was looking forward to the general election.
“Gov. Hogan’s successes and support in Maryland, including with Democrats, prove Marylanders like the change he’s bringing to our state and they will support a candidate, like me, who will bring that same real change to Washington. And that is exactly what I will do. As a small business owner, I will bring business-sense to Washington to get our economy moving again,” she said.
The winner of the general election is set to replace retiring five-term Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).
Speaking to supporters at the grand ballroom of the Bethesda Marriott, Van Hollen predicted not only his victory in the general election in Democratic-heavy Maryland, but that Democrats would recapture a majority in the Senate.
“And we’re going to say goodbye to Mitch McConnell!” said Van Hollen, referring to the Republican majority leader from Kentucky.
He called Edwards “a strong advocate for Democratic Party values and priorities.”
“And I’m grateful for the call I just received from her and I know we will go forth in unity to win the general election,” added Van Hollen.
Van Hollen also called out real estate mogul Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, saying Democrats don’t “pit people against each other based on religion or ethnicity or race.”
“That is not who we are in the United States of America,” he said, later addressing Trump directly.
“You may have won the Maryland Republican primary, but that’s not who we are in the state of Maryland.”
Van Hollen touted President Barack Obama’s record from the first two years of his presidency when he had Democratic Senate and House majorities.
He cited the economic stimulus bill, the “not perfect” Wall Street reform bill, and the federal health care reform bill, commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, which he said “provides affordable health care to over 18 million Americans.”
For the general election, Van Hollen also called on his supporters to be vigilant.
“Maryland is not cobalt blue so we’re going to have to work very hard in every corner of the state,” he said. “We’ve got to campaign for every vote in every part of the state.”
One hour and four minutes before Van Hollen took the stage, his supporters loudly cheered at 9:52 p.m. when the MSNBC commentators on two television screens projected the seven-term congressman the winner of the Democratic primary, showing him with a 55 percent to 38 percent lead over Edwards.
Edwards lost despite her campaign convincing a judge to keep four Baltimore precincts open for an extra hour because they opened to voters an hour late at 7 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.
Edwards thanked her supporters in her concession speech.
“You gave your heart and your soul to this campaign. There is no one in this race who out-hustled our team of door-knockers and phone-callers. You have my sincerest thanks,” she said.
She also said her loss means Maryland is on the verge of having an all-male Congressional delegation, which she feels is not representative of the state or the party.
“What I want to know from my Democratic party is when are the voices of people of color, when will the voices of women, when will the voices of labor, when will the voices of black women, when will our voices be effective, legitimate, equal leaders in a big-tent party?” she said.
Several elected officials from Montgomery County said Monday they endorsed Van Hollen as soon as he called them to announce his campaign, including state Attorney General Brian Frosh (D).
“We worked with each other on environmental legislation, gun legislation,” said Frosh, adding that Van Hollen’s worked to protect the Chesapeake Bay and on children’s health care.
State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) described Van Hollen as a “leader” on fiscal issues, including the budget. Van Hollen serves as the ranking Democratic representative on the House Budget Committee.
“The day he called me, Chris said, ‘I’m running for the United States Senate,’ and I said, ‘I’ll be with you 110 percent,’” said State Sen. Richard Madaleno (D), who noted he represents the same state senate seat Van Hollen formerly occupied.
Madaleno said he’s known Van Hollen since 1991 and said he worked with him in 2002 to change the state education funding formula.
“That has more than doubled the amount of state aid that has come to Montgomery County Public Schools,” Madaleno said.
He also decried Edwards’ claim that Van Hollen “cut a backroom deal” with the National Rifle Association so the NRA could “keep buying off politicians.”
“I think they share so many positions that small differences had to be magnified,” Madaleno said. “It’s frightening for the future of politics that you can twist a vote to say it does something that it doesn’t.”
Mary Gant, a retired National Institute of Health employee from Bethesda, said she voted for Van Hollen because of his record on education, the environment, women’s rights and gun control.
Now working for the Green Science Policy Institute, Gant noted Van Hollen traveled to the General Assembly this past session to support four gun control bills.
“He took time out one morning to go to Annapolis and testify because he cares that much about this issue,” she said.