California, MD — The retirement of long-serving Democratic U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski has left wide open races in both parties in the upcoming primary election. Ten candidates filed for the Democratic primary, but polls show the contest is really between two of those candidates (two of Maryland’s eight members of the House of Representatives), Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen.

A recent Washington Post/University of Maryland poll showed a close race, with Edwards leading Van Hollen by 44 to 40 percent. Edwards, however, has a much larger lead with likely African-American voters, and out-polls Van Hollen by a three to one margin among back women.

Van Hollen has garnered the bulk of the party leadership support, including County Executive Rushern Baker of Prince George’s County, Edwards home county.
The race has recently become contentious, with Edwards running TV ads challenging Van Hollen’s record on Social Security and gun control. Van Hollen has responded with press releases including criticism of Edwards by former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former gubernatorial candidate. On April 8 he held a press conference attacking Edwards “record of ineffectiveness.”

Regarding Edwards criticism of him, he said, “You can’t focus on purely ideological talking points.” Van Hollen made the comments during an interview with The BayNet April 6 at the Coffee Quarter in California during a day-long stop by the congressman in Southern Maryland. The day included an earlier tour of Pax River and attendance at a Southern Maryland Navy Alliance meeting. He was also scheduled to attend an event at Walden-Sierra on the area’s opiate addiction problem.

In the interview Van Hollen noted that Mikulski had not endorsed any candidate but that she had been very helpful in his campaign. (Editor’s Note: Dick Myers was a former Mikulski staffer). Van Hollen noted Mikulski’s long record of constituent service and criticized Edwards for her lack of it. He pointed out a Washington Post editorial critical of her constituent service in “helping people in need.”

Regarding Edwards’ lead in the polls among black voters, Van Hollen hopes those going to the polls will want to choose someone “with a record of achieving results.” He said that’s why he has the support of so many elected officials, including former gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and many black legislators.

“My view is people are looking for someone like Senator Mikulski,” Van Hollen said in asking for the voters’ support. “I am focused on making a difference in people’s lives at the ground level,” he added.

On his Pax River tour, Van Hollen said, “It is very Important to our national defense.” He said the base “should be positioned strategically”to withstand any future Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) incentives. He noted the base has tested every aircraft for the Navy’s present and the future.

Regarding his later meeting at Walden-Sierra, Van Hollen said the federal government can play a key role in the fight against heroin abuse. In that regard, he said the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a key access to drug treatment and research. The federal government, he said, can also provide additional funding to community health centers.

Van Hollen’s political path to running for the U.S. Senate started in the 1980s as legislative assistant to then U.S. Senator Charles Mathias, a Republican, and later as an adviser to Gov. William Donald Schaefer. He served in the Maryland General Assembly from 1991 to 2003, first in the House and then in the Senate.

He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003 and is in his seventh term. While in Congress he was appointed Assistant to the Speaker and served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Van Hollen, 57, was born on a farm in Pakistan while his father, a Foreign Service officer, was stationed there. He has a B.A. from Swarthmore College and an M.A. in Public Policy from Harvard.

He and his wife Katherine live in Kensington, Montgomery County with their three children Anne, Nicholas and Alexander.

Contact Dick Myers at