Mikulski announces her final term in Senate

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the longest-serving woman in the U.S. Senate, has announced she will not seek a sixth term. Photo by Melissa Gerr

Throwing Maryland politics into a tizzy and spurring jockeying for position for a rare open Senate seat, Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced that she will not seek a sixth term in the chamber where she’s served since 1986.

There was “nothing gloomy about the announcement,” she said March 2 at the Inn at Henderson’s Wharf in Fells Point. “There’s no health problem” and “I’m not frustrated with the Senate; the Senate will always be what the Senate is.”

But, she said, “I had to ask myself who am I campaigning for? Am I campaigning for me, or am I campaigning for my constituents? Fighting for my job or fighting for their job? Do I spend my time raising money or raising hell?”

By the end of her current term, on Dec. 31, 2016, she will have served longer than any woman in Congress.


In an emotional announcement, Mikulski thanked the people of Maryland for “the trust that they have given” and thanked Sen. Ben Cardin and former Sen. Paul Sarbanes, both Maryland Democrats, for their support and partnership throughout the years.

“First and foremost I look at this as an opportunity to celebrate an incredible record of a remarkable person who has made a permanent positive mark on our political system,” said Cardin, who was at the announcement. But “this is bittersweet for me. It will leave an incredible void because she’s been a real powerful force for our state.”

When asked what was her proudest moment serving the people of Maryland, Mikulski said there was “no job too big or too small,” whether it was removing stigmatized language in reference to special-needs children or listening to the financial needs of firefighters and ultimately engaging Republicans to create a national funding program.

“My best ideas have come from the people — listening to the people, knowing what their needs are, responding to that need and trying to turn it into national policy,” she said.

Sarbanes’ son, Rep. John Sarbanes, called Mikulski a political force in Maryland and on Capitol Hill.

“Breaking glass ceilings and fighting for working families, her career is nothing short of historic,” the Democratic congressman said in a statement. “I am among the many Marylanders who feel privileged to have benefited from her outstanding service. We wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement.”

The big question is who will fill Mikulski’s seat. Many eyes turned to former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is considering a run for president in 2016. He quickly removed his name from consideration
on Tuesday.

“I am hopeful and confident that very capable public servants with a desire to serve in the Senate will step up as candidates for this important office,” he said in a statement provided to The Baltimore Sun. “I will not be one of them.”

Reached at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, Barbara Goldberg Goldman, a member of the National Jewish Democratic Council’s executive committee, speculated on a possible Senate run by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, whose 8th Congressional District stretches from Washington’s northwest suburbs, through Howard County and into Frederick and Carroll counties.

Van Hollen, a Democrat, is “one of the finest legislators in Maryland and the country,” she said. Still, “he would have to give up his seniority and acquired authority” in the House of Representatives to become a freshman senator.

For his part, Van Hollen offered praise for Mikulski. “Her leadership on behalf of working families in our state and across the country has not only been tireless, but historic,” he said in a statement, adding that she mentored female senators and “never stopped working for equality.”

Other names being reported as possible contenders for the seat include Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Rep. John Delaney, former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, former Attorney General Doug Gansler and former Del. Heather Mizeur, as well as Brown’s running mate, former Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Mikulski had no opinion on who her successor might be, but said she plans to fulfill her term and work hard on behalf of Marylanders.

“Though I’m turning a new page,” said Mikulski, “make no mistake, we’re not writing the last chapter.”

[email protected]
Melissa Gerr is a senior staff reporter and digital news editor at WJW’s sister publication, Baltimore Jewish Times. Washington Jewish Week Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey W. Melada contributed to this article.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here