Sen. Barbara Mikulski speaks in December on the release from Cuba of Bethesda resident Alan Gross. Mikulkski announced Monday she would not seek reelection, ending her tenure as the longest-serving woman in Congress.

Local leaders are responding to Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s announcement that she plans to retire at the end of her term, ending her tenure as Congress’ longest-serving female legislator.

“Barbara Mikulski has been a true champion for the people of Maryland,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Montgomery County resident who is seen as a likely candidate for her seat, in a prepared statement. “Her first career was as a social worker and a community organizer—and her dedication to fighting for working families and the underdog never once waivered when she came to the House and then the Senate. From kids’ education and seniors’ retirement security, to veterans who fought for our nation and first responders who keep our community safe, no one has been a more tenacious advocate than Barbara.”

Mikulski, a Baltimore Democrat, was first elected to Congress in 1977. She served 10 years in the House before being elected to the Senate in 1986, where she has served five terms.

Van Hollen, also a Democrat, called her leadership “historic.”

“From mentoring female senators as the dean of the women to fighting hard to get the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act across the finish line, Barbara has never stopped working for equality,” he said.

Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal called Mikulski “a force for good in American politics.” Leventhal worked on her Senate staff for five years in the 1990s.


“It is hard to remember now what a seismic change Barbara Mikulski represented when she was elected to the U.S. Senate as one of only two women in that body,” he said in a press release. “Her election sent a signal to America and the world that the U.S. Senate didn’t have to be an exclusive good old boys club. She has consistently been a strong voice for a more open and inclusive politics and her retirement announcement continues that tradition, as it offers an opportunity for a new generation of leadership to rise.”

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan praised Mikulski as well.

“As the longest serving woman in the history of Congress, she is a trailblazer in the truest sense,” he said, “and will leave behind a proud legacy for those who will follow in her footsteps.”


Who will vie for her seat? In addition to Van Hollen, The Washington Post lists a couple possible candidates with Montgomery County connections, including Rep. John Delaney, who represents Maryland’s 6th District, former Montgomery County state delegate Heather Mizeur and  U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a former Montgomery County Council member.

Other possible contenders on the Democratic side include Reps. Elijah Cummings, Donna Edwards and  John Sarbanes and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. On the Republican side, the Post’s speculation includes Rep. Andy Harris and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.