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May 30, 2003

Help Wanted: Someone To Take On Barbara Mikulski

John P. Snyder

With U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) up for reelection next year, Maryland Republicans are scrambling to find a viable candidate to take her on. It is imperative that they do so.

For if Ms. Mikulski is offered another cakewalk to reelection, it will be a disaster for Maryland Republicans, moderates and independents, as well the state as a whole.

Barbara Mikulski can best be defined as a liberalís liberal. Her career in elected office can be described as a never ending attempt to expand government, to create entitlements and to weaken our countryís ability to defend itself. She is the mother hen to the loony left in the U.S. Senate.

Beginning with her election to the Baltimore City Council in 1967 she has never run in a close election. In 1998 she took 71% of the vote against perennial candidate Ross Z. Pierpont. With little opposition, she followed her instincts and followed the liberal/leftist path.

Over the last 10 years she has kept a lower profile. She tends to her work on the committee that oversees NASA, labor and pension issues. Her name surfaces ever year when Washingtonian Magazine surveys Hill staffers and names her the meanest senator and possessor of the worst temper in the capital. As a feminist, she can be counted on to appoint herself spokeswoman for all the women in the country and the world. Although she frequently mentions her Catholic roots, she is a passionate supporter of abortion rights, even late term abortions.

She lead the charge against Sen. Robert Packwood (R., OR) to get him kicked out of the Senate for his problems with sexual harassment. She defended Anita Hill.

She sought to cancel the pension benefits of Lt. Comdr. Frank Kelso, who was in charge at the infamous Tailhook reunion in 1992. She didn't have much to say about Bill Clinton and his relationships with women in general and Monica Lewinsky in particular, however.

Not surprisingly, she voted against giving President Bush authority to take on Iraq, and she voted against tax cuts for working Americans. In 1989 she was robbed at gunpoint near her Fells Point home. Like any good liberal, she promptly moved to the suburbs.

Next yearís election is looking like a disaster for Democrats. President Bush's approval ratings are at 66%. Sure they are liable to come down. Itís worth noting, however, that Ronald Reagan blew out Walter Mondale when he had a 52% approval rating.

When it comes to potential presidential nominees, Democrats will have to choose their poison. Front runner John Kerry would compare favorably with George McGovern in '72 or Michael Dukakis in '88. Itís hard to imagine him getting 50 electoral votes, let alone the required 270. Personally, I like Al Sharpton.

The Democrats have nine incumbent senators facing reelection in states that George Bush won handily. A six or seven seat pickup for the Republicans is not unlikely.

Here in Maryland, no one expects Senator Mikulski to lose. She has a few million socked away should she need it. And for constituent service, well, she is the best.

But the opportunity for her to be on the defensive is there. President Bush could sweep Maryland, as his father did in '88 and Reagan did in '84. The shifting sands of political life makes her brand of screaming liberalism somewhat quaint and outdated.

Like any Democrat, she'll have to play the race card to energize black voters. Her liberal extremism seems out of step with suburban dominated Maryland. Her grating delivery and style could be a real negative against a good candidate.

Regrettably the Republican bench is thin. Michael Steele could do it and still be Lieutenant Governor. But it seems too much, too soon for him. Connie Morella seems content in retirement.

The best hope is a Democrat, former Prince Georgeís County Executive Wayne Curry. He would be terrific. If he just got 25% of the black vote he could win. I am sure the powers that be are working on him, but it seems like a longshot.

Until then, its "please God, send us a good candidate to take on Babs Mikulski".

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