BALTMORE - 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.
Senator Barbara Mikulski has honored this great state and our country throughout her nearly 40 years in Congress,” said Prince George’s County Council Chairman Mel Franklin. “The longest serving woman in the history of Congress, and the only woman to have chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Mikulski is more than a trailblazer—she has shattered every glass ceiling in her way. The Prince George’s County Council and our residents will miss her tireless advocacy on Capitol Hill for the interests of working families and civil rights. Senator Mikulski will always be the “Dean of the Senate” and we wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement.”
Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal, who served as Mikulski’s legislative assistant for three years before becoming her legislative director from 1994-1995, said he thinks Mikulski is one of the most important Marylanders in the state’s history.
“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,” Leventhal said.
Mikulski’s departure raises questions about who is next in line to fill her vacancy. Currently Maryland has seven Democrats in Congress who could potentially look at the race, including Reps. Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cumming, Donna Edwards, John Delaney and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.
Mikulksi’s retirement will be a “great loss” for Congress, Hoyer said, and it “honored” him to serve alongside her for six years.
“Throughout her years in office, she has drawn on her experience as a social worker and community activist in Baltimore to sponsor and advance legislation to ensure that the most vulnerable in our country are protected from poverty, hunger, and disease and that the opportunities inherent in the American Dream are open to as many of our people as possible,” Hoyer said.
Edwards said she looked up to Mikulski as a mentor and considers her one of Maryland’s greatest leaders.
“Her legacy will echo for generations to come,” Edwards said. “I value our tremendous partnership on securing scientific funding critical to our state, creating an emergency preparedness initiative for our region centered at Prince George’s County Hospital, and protecting women's rights and health in the landmark Affordable Care Act. I join all Marylanders and countless others around the country in thanking her for 30 years of service in the Senate and wish her all the best as she begins a new chapter in her life.”
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.”