The Problem with “Antique Furniture”…
Many Marylanders were beside themselves with premature irrational exuberance at the rumor – which briefly circulated last month – that U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D., MD) would finally retire.
The unfounded rumor began to make the rounds on February 15 and, just as quickly as it surfaced, it was swept-up for the trash bin like so much used confetti at a private ticker-tape parade.
What a shame. Maryland’s U.S. senators, Sen. Ben Cardin (D., MD) and Senator Mikulski, are lock step with anything President Barack Obama desires and barely represent anyone in our cobalt-blue state beyond a good stones-throw from the D.C and Baltimore beltways.
The 73-year-old Senator Mikulski quickly put the kibosh on any idea that she would fade away after representing Maryland for four terms, since 1987, when she garnered the open seat in the Washington upper chamber when former Sen. Charles "Mac" Mathias, a liberal Republican, retired.
In a press release, “Mikulski To Formally Announce Re-Election Run This Spring” posted on her campaign web site on February 17, it was glibly declared: “For the past year, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski has been running a very successful, though unannounced, campaign for re-election in 2010.”
In recent memory, Marylanders have gotten excited about replacing the august senator twice.
The first time was in 2003. “Maryland Republicans, fresh from taking the governor's mansion, are looking for a marquee name to put up against one of the state's most popular Democrats — Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski,” wrote Vaishali Honawar for The Washington Times on June 8, 2003.
The Times opined, “Among their unlikely dream candidates to face Miss Mikulski next year: Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, former Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (a Democrat) and the state's first lady, Kendel Ehrlich.”
At the time, Maryland Democrats were amused at the idea of anyone successfully running against Senator Mikulski noting that she had “won three straight races and is in her 17th year as senator. She won the last election against perennial candidate Ross Z. Pierpont, an independent, with 71 percent of the vote.”
“Democratic Party spokesman David Paulson said they are not concerned about a challenge from Mr. Steele. ‘I don't think he will be a formidable candidate ... 25 percent of Marylanders don't even know who Michael Steele is,’ he said.”
In the end, the job to challenge Senator Mikulski in 2004 fell to Maryland State Sen. E. J. Pipkin (R., Eastern Shore), whose deep pockets failed to dislodge the entrenched liberal icon. He garnered only 34 percent of the vote. The Baltimore Sun wryly said at the time, “Junk bonds are safer bets,” with a wink at the inside baseball humor…
Lt. Gov. Michael Steele later rolled the dice in the fall of 2006 in an attempt to take the other senate-seat when Sen. Paul Sarbanes, (D., MD) retired. We all know how well that turned out.
Then, excitement grew shortly after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009 that maybe, just maybe, Maryland would see fresh representation in the Senate when The Baltimore Sun wrote on February 3, 2009:
“Unconfirmed rumors began seeping out of Capitol Hill late today that Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is under consideration for the suddenly vacant position of Secretary of Health and Human Services.”
That did not pan-out either.
Moving on to the present, Senator Mikulski’s press release boasted last month, “She's traveled the state, raised money, hired a campaign manager and stashed away more than $2 million in campaign cash. That isn't a huge pile of money, but it's big enough for now – with no significant opponent in sight and no apparent prospect that one will materialize.”
To which Don Murphy, “a former Maryland delegate and GOP strategist, who advises Republican Mikulski challenger Eric Wargotz,” paradoxically observed in a February 28 Fox News article by Graham Moomaw, “Mikulski Bid for Fifth Term Leaves Md. Dems Staring at Career Ceiling”:
“The only people who want Mikulski out more than Republicans are elected Democrats for whom she is posing a logjam in upward mobility.”
The Fox News article observed, “When Sen. Barbara Mikulski squelched rumors of her impending retirement by announcing she's ready for a fifth term, she also put a damper on the career aspirations of ambitious Maryland politicians…
“If re-elected, the 73-year-old would be the longest-serving woman in Senate history. If she completes another full term, her 30 years in office would tie her with former Sen. Paul Sarbanes as the longest-serving senator from Maryland.”
All-the-while, keep in mind, the 800-pound gorilla in the room for any Republican challenger is the not-so-small matter that Democrats outnumber Republicans in registered voters in Maryland by a margin of 2-1.
Meanwhile, with the Maryland Republican primary months away – on September 14, 2010 – seven Republican candidates have announced that they would like to give Senator Mikulski some free time, including Carmen Amedori, John F. Curran, John B. Kimble, Daniel W. McAndrew, Jim Rutledge, Corrogan R. Vaughn, and Eric Wargotz, according to a recent release by Daniel “The Whig Man” Vovak.
What is at stake was noted best by “Andrew Gall, a public policy graduate student from College Park,” who is mounting a challenge to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., MD,) in the recent Fox News article:
“If you look at the private sector, people are constantly bringing in new blood trying to keep up with the dynamism of business. You don't see that in government… If you had more turnover and more of an injection of new people and new vigor, you'll see a better result.”
Eric Sutton, in 2003 the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said in The Washington Times article: “Barbara Mikulski has been a very weak senator, one of the worst we've had in a long time and with a long track record of voting against working families… She is like antique furniture in an attic….”
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at email@example.com.