BALTIMORE – Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who has served Congress longer than any woman in history and was the first woman to chair the Appropriations Committee, announced Monday she will retire from the Senate after five terms in office.
Mikulski, 78, began her career in politics as an elected official in the Baltimore City Council, where she spent five years before coming to Congress in 1977. In 1986 Mikulski won the Maryland seat in the Senate by defeating Linda Chavez.
“[Mikulski] is one of the most important Marylanders in the state’s history,” said Montgomery County council president George Leventhal, who served as Mikulski’s legislative assistant for three years before becoming her legislative director from 1994-1995. “Her election to the House in 1976 and her election to the Senate in 1986 sent a groundbreaking message that anyone can participate in politics – she’s a role model for me, to say I love her is… the word is not strong enough.”
Mikulski’s departure raises questions about who is next in line to fill her vacancy. Currently Maryland has seven Democrats in Congress that could potentially look at the race, including Reps. Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cumming, Donna Edwards, John Delaney and Rep. John Sarbanes.
Van Hollen said Mikulksi has been “a true champion for the people of Maryland.”
“Her leadership on behalf of working families in our State and across the country has not only been tireless, but historic,” said Van Hollen. “She broke the mold as the leader of Team Maryland, and Maryland and America are stronger thanks to Barbara Mikulski.”
Sarbanes also said he was among the many Marylanders who feel privileged to have benefitted from her outstanding service.
“Senator Barbara Mikulksi has long been a political force in Maryland and on Capitol Hill. Breaking glass ceiling and fighting for working families, her career is nothing short of historic,” said Sarbanes. “We wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement.”
Mikulski announced her retirement at Henderson’s Wharf Inn in Fells Point located in East Baltimore where she spent a majority of her youth. It was there Mikulksi said she learned her values, patriotism, love for this country and that you have to fight for and protect the freedom and opportunity it gives.
Mikulski said faced with a choice to begin campaigning for her re-election she decided instead to spend the next two years campaigning for the people of Maryland.
“Because every day , I want to wake up thinking about you – the little guys and gals, the watermen, automobile workers, researchers, small business owner and families. I want to give you 120 percent of my time with all my energy focused on you and your future. Because it’s always been about you, never about me. That’s what it takes to be a good senator by my expectations and by my standards,” said Mikulksi.
“To the people of Maryland – I thank you. You’ve honored me with your confidence and trust. I’ve tried to live up to it and will continue to do that every day. I pledge, as always, that I will take the values I learned living here in East Baltimore and work as hard as ever, dedicated to you and dedicated to the nation. Thank you and God bless.”