When Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in congressional history, announced that she was stepping down next year, a diverse cast of contenders emerged for her Senate seat. Rep. Donna Edwards, who would be the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in the Senate and only the second in the upper chamber's history, was quick to indicate her interest in the race. And Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she would take a look at the seat as well.
But four days later, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced he was supporting a white man—Rep. Chris Van Hollen—to replace her.
Mikulski was furious, Democratic sources say. The Maryland Democrat has decided not to endorse in the race and was stunned that Reid barged in, particularly with two promising female candidates eyeing the race. (Edwards officially entered just days after Reid announced his endorsement.)
The feeling among Democratic activists in the state—as well as national groups eyeing the race—is that the primary is likely be a bloody one.
Mikulski likes Edwards personally and the two have worked closely together to advance Maryland's interests, a Senate Democratic aide said. Van Hollen, not so much. And as a major proponent of closing the gender gap in the Senate, where just 20 members are women, Mikulski would like to see the seat go to a female candidate; though she plans to let voters make that decision themselves. "I think it's important for Maryland to make a choice that they are crazy about," Mikulski said.