By Kevin O’Rourke
Five-term U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski announced today she has decided not to run for re-election when her term ends in 2017 and shortly after the announcement U.S. Representative John K. Delaney (MD-6) said on his campaign Twitter feed that he would explore a run for Mikulski’s seat in 2017.
Mikulski, who will complete her fifth term in office in January 2017, says she wants to focus for the next two years on working for her constituents and for the nation.
“Because every day, I want to wake up thinking about you -- the little guys and gals, the watermen, automobile workers, researchers, small business owners and families,” Senator Mikulski said. “I want to give you 120 percent of my time with all of my energy focused on you and your futures. Because it’s always been about you, never about me. That’s what it takes to be a good senator by my expectations and by my standards.”
Mikulski, 78, was the first Democratic woman Senator elected in her own right, and was one of only two women Senators serving when she took office in 1987. On Jan. 5, 2011, she became the longest-serving woman in U.S. Senate history when she was sworn in to the 112th Congress, breaking the record previously held by Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine.) Mikulski has said she shares many things in common with Senator Smith, including a strong belief in constituent service.
“For me, service is about solving problems for my constituents. I could never put you or your needs on a back burner,” she said today in her retirement announcement. “With my own re-election on the horizon, I thought long and hard about how I want to spend the next two years – what is it I want to campaign for, for you or for me?”
“I had to decide whether to spend my time fighting to keep my job or fighting for your job. Do I spend my time raising money or raising hell to meet your day-to-day needs? Do I spend my time focusing on my election or the next generation. Do I spend the next two years making promises about what I will do or making progress on what I can do right now.”
“The more I thought about it, the more the answer became really clear – I want to campaign for you. That’s why I’m here to announce I won’t be seeking a 6th term as a United States Senator for Maryland,” she said.
“To the people of Maryland -- I thank you,” she said. “You’ve honored me with your confidence and trust. I’ve tried to live up to it and will continue to do that every day. I pledge, as always, that I will take the values I learned living here in East Baltimore and work as hard as ever, dedicated to you and dedicated to the nation. Thank you and God bless.”
Reaction from political figures around the state was one of graditude.
“Senator Barbara Mikulski has been an incomparable leader for the issues that matter most to middle-class Americans, and for that, her state and her country owe her the deepest gratitude,” said Delaney in a statement on his official House.gov website. “A rare combination of intelligence, compassion and grit has made her a singular champion for issues impacting women, children, our environment and our beloved state of Maryland. We have been blessed to have her as our Senator.”
Delaney’s statement continued, “Senator Mikulski changed Washington, improved the lives of Marylanders and inspired an entire generation of women to pursue public office. For five decades she’s been Maryland’s voice in Washington, standing as a national leader of the highest acclaim and a tireless fighter for our state and our people. Senator Mikulski has also been a moral voice; she has been a champion for civil rights and equality. I join the rest of the state – from the mountains to Baltimore to the Eastern Shore - in thanking Senator Mikulski for an awe-inspiring lifetime of service.”
As for who will take Mikulski’s seat in the Senate there is a long list of possible Democratic successors, including former Governor Martin O’Malley, and former Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, as well as seven of Maryland’s eight Congressional representatives. Including the John Delaney from Maryland’s 6th district, who posted a Tweet on his campaign Twitter account which read, “I’m in public service to get things done and will explore a race for Senate. MD families want jobs, economic opportunity & real solutions.”