An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Sarbanes' Seat Open

Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Maryland's longest serving senator, announced this afternoon that he would retire at the end of the current session, opening up a potentially exciting 2006 race to replace him, for a change. While this is a strongly Democratic state, the primary could be very competitive (with years of bottled-up ambition pouring out) and is surely the best chance Republicans have of picking up a seat in either house of Congress in Maryland in 2006.

The Democratic primary should feature a number of potentially strong candidates. If either Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley or Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan choose to pull out of the gubernatorial, they would have a head start in getting organized and building support/name recognition. There is little doubt that Representatives Elijah Cummings, Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin, and Al Wynn are interested; former Rep. and NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, and onetime congressional candidate and state Rep. Mark Shriver are other potential contenders. The entry of any of the current crop of leaders would lead to similar competitions for their open seats.

On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele would probably be the strongest competitor, though it seems like he is waiting for the Governor's seat to open up (presuming Ehrlich/Steele win in 2006). With Representatives Roscoe Bartlett and Wayne Gilchrest unlikely to be willing to give up their safe House seats for a longshot run for Senate, state Senator E.J. Pipkin or any one of a number of ambitious state and local leaders will probably jump into the fray.