Barbara Mikulski Will Not Run For Re-Election In 2016

Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving woman in Congressional history, has announced that she will not seek re-election in 2016:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who has served in Congress longer than any woman in history, announced at a news conference Monday that she will retire from the Senate after five terms in office, three people familiar with her plans said.

Mikulski, 78, was the first woman to chair the powerful Appropriations Committe, a post she had to give up this year when the Democrats lost control of the Senate. A social worker turned politician, she has been a forceful presence on many pieces of legislation, passionately liberal on certain issues but also committed to working closely with Republicans.

The Baltimore native represented Maryland in Congress for 10 years, starting in 1977. She was first elected to the Senate in 1986. She began her career as an elected official on the Baltimore City Council, where she spent five years before coming to Congress.

Given Milkuski’s age, the announcement isn’t entirely unexpected and, as The Washington Post goes on to note, it could open up something of a free-for-all among Maryland Democrats looking to step up:

The retirement has the potential to reshape both Maryland politics and internal congressional leadership. Several of the seven Maryland Democrats in Congress will likely take a look at the race, including Reps. Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cummings, Donna Edwards, John Delaney and possibly Rep. John Sarbanes, whose father also served in the Senate.

Many in Maryland and on Capitol Hill have long viewed Van Hollen, a former aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who lives in Montgomery County, as a likely candidate for Senate once Mikulski stepped aside. In the last six years, however, Van Hollen has become an increasingly loyal understudy of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has at times considered retiring herself. That means a Van Hollen bid for the Senate could also scramble the eventual race to replace Pelosi.

The Senate seat could also be tempting for former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley (D), who is weighing a 2016 presidential bid that has yet to get any traction. Other names being talked about on the Democratic side include Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a former Montgomery County Council member and state-level Cabinet secretary; and former Montgomery County delegate Heather Mizeur, a progressive who performed better than expected in last year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.​

There are a number of potential Republican names as well, including Congressman Andy Harris, former Governor Bob Ehrlich, and Dan Boningo, who has run for office unsuccessfully in the state several times in recent years. In all honesty, though, this is likely a safe Democratic seat. While Republicans may draw hope from the November 2014 victory of Governor Larry Hogan, a definite surprise, Maryland has been reliably Democratic in Presidential election years since 1984 and that seems unlikely to change in 2016. It’s also worth noting that the Obama/Biden ticket got twice as many votes in Maryland in 2012 as Larry Hogan did in 2014. So is it possible that Maryland could be in contention in 2016? In the sense that anything is possible, yes it is. It just isn’t very likely. Barring some major change, Maryland will remain a solid blue state in 2016.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Pinky says:

    A nitpick:

    Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who has served in Congress longer than any woman in history, announced at a news conference Monday that she will retire from the Senate after five terms in office, three people familiar with her plans said.

    What does that mean? Is the story based on a press conference, or on anonymous sources? Or was it a press conference only attended by anonymous sources? I mean, really, what is that? It’s the first sentence in a local and national political story in the Washington Post. It’s not supposed to be amateur hour.

  2. CSK says:


    Someone at the Post picked up on your comment; the lede has been changed.

    Good catch.

  3. humanoid.panda says:

    @CSK: The story came out initially as leaks from sources close to Mikulsky, and then was confirmed in a press conference. Those are the perils of the sixty minutes news cycle..

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pinky: Heh, me too.

  5. CSK says:

    VERY OT, but the real news of the day is that Sharknado III has been cast, with Mark Cuban playing the president of the U.S. and Ann Coulter playing the vice president. I guess Sarah Palin must have had a scheduling conflict.

    This is so awesome I don’t know if I can’ stand it.

  6. SenyorDave says:

    @CSK: I’m actually pretty surprised that Cuban wants to be associated with Coulter. I despise her politics but that isn’t the issue I have here. She is a bigot, she tosses around slurs (she called John Edwards a faggot and has been know to use the term raghead in public). She has that rare ability to be nasty no matter what her stance on an issue is.

  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    The scuttlebutt going around amongst my politically connected friends in Maryland is that O’Malley intends to run for the seat, and Mikulski will endorse him.

  8. xsnake says:

    Unless the collective runs a dope for the seat, it’ll be rough sledding for one of ours to get elected. They do like Marx in Maryland.

  9. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Guess that would explain why Maryland leads the nation, year after year, in median and per capita income. Gosh darn those successful socialists earning more than everybody else …

  10. An Interested Party says:

    They do like Marx in Maryland.

    Unlike capitalist paradises like, say, Mississippi or Arkansas…

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Or Kansas and Wisconsin 😀

  12. Pinky says:


    Guess that would explain why Maryland leads the nation, year after year, in median and per capita income. Gosh darn those successful socialists earning more than everybody else …

    Living near the capital and getting high-paying government and quasi-government jobs is very much a socialist go-to move worldwide. I think you made your comment sarcastically, but it’s actually a very good description. Doesn’t it bother you that there’s a stretch of land between the Appalachians and the Chesapeake that’s outrageously wealthy, that wealth almost exclusively drawn from others?

  13. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Doesn’t it bother you that there’s a stretch of land between the Appalachians and the Chesapeake that’s outrageously wealthy, that wealth almost exclusively drawn from others?

    No more than it bothers me that Mississippi has roads only because somebody else paid for them.

    While we’re on the subject, though, there’s a stretch of land between the Hudson and East rivers that meets that description too, so nah, to be honest it doesn’t bother me at all.

  14. Pinky says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I guess I was thinking of “drawn” money as involuntary. New York does its own thing, and people wisely or not send their money there willingly. It produces services on a contractual basis. And “it” doesn’t do anything, really; a thousand firms compete for each dollar that comes into the town. Washington has no such competition. You can think of Washington as a unit in a way that doesn’t make sense for New York.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    One would think that Virginia would have much higher incomes as that state feeds from the same gravy train as Maryland…what are they doing in MD that they aren’t doing in VA…

  16. Pinky says:

    @An Interested Party: If you look at the county data, the better Maryland and Virginia suburbs are doing comparably well. Richmond looks to be doing comparably to Baltimore. The difference is that Virginia has a couple million more people.

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Virginia is 3 and a half times the size of Maryland, and has 2.35 million more people.

    Loudoun / Fairfax / Alexandria are pretty equitable in comparison to Montgomery / Anne Arundel / Howard. Maryland just has a lot fewer people located in its poor outlying areas than Virginia does.

    1/5th of Maryland’s population, for example, lives in exceedingly wealthy Montgomery County alone.

  18. HarvardLaw92 says:


    So Martin seems to have derailed this one. My money is now on Van Hollen taking it. The MD 8th is an exceedingly safe seat for him to vacate, and none of the other potential opponents really work – Donna Edwards won’t win the primary and Rawlings-Blake is a laughable candidate.

  19. An Interested Party says:

    My money is now on Van Hollen taking it.

    I’m not so sure I would totally count out John Sarbanes…

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Entirely possible, agreed, but Van Hollen’s seat is the safer one to vacate. I think the party would let John know that it would prefer he not run. Who really knows though?

  21. DrDaveT says:


    high-paying government and quasi-government jobs

    Really? Care to list a few of those? Be sure to include some where you actually make more by working for the government (or the quasi-government) than you would make doing the same job down the street in the private sector.

    I don’t know where this “overpaid feds” meme comes from, but it’s even less factual than the usual Liberpublican propaganda. There are a lot of things to dislike about federal government employment practices; “high-paying” is not one of them.

  22. J-Dub says:


    that wealth almost exclusively drawn from others

    All I can say to this is “thank you very much”. I’d say more but I have a plane to catch to my second home.

  23. J-Dub says:

    @DrDaveT: It’s less about the Federal Gov’t and more about the Military Industrial Complex that surrounds the entire DC region. Senators and Representatives might be able to get some production plants in their home districts, but all the money eventually flows back here. 11 of the top 21 richest counties are in MD/VA, surrounding DC.

  24. J-Dub says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I wouldn’t be so quick to discount Rawlings-Blake. If she takes Baltimore City and PG County then she’s halfway home.

  25. Pinky says:

    @DrDaveT: I didn’t say “overpaid”. I said “high-paying”.

  26. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Possibly, but I have doubts she’ll make any serious headway in Montgomery, Howard or Anne Arundel. That’ll hurt her chances.