Category Archives: US Senate

John Delaney for Senate?


John Delaney is a two-term U.S. representative who founded two publicly traded companies focused on financial services. He may well be the only candidate able to point to significant private sector experience. While he not always the most charismatic, he’s very, very smart and is well-versed in economic policy in a way that is rare for an elected official.

Money, Money, Money

John Delaney is worth a cool nine figures and over the last few years has spent around $5 million dollars of his own funds on his U.S. House bids. Always nice to be able to drop more than most will see in a lifetime like it’s buying a nice meal out.

In contrast, Chris Van Hollen and all other candidates will need to spend months locked in windowless rooms begging lobbyists and national donors for $2,600 checks in hopes of funding broadcast media buys in the extremely expensive DC and Baltimore Markets.

For the record, DC Broadcast at saturation costs $450,000 per week. Delaney can put $10 million, $15 million, perhaps even $20 million dollars in his campaign account in five minutes,  freeing up his time for extensive retail politicking in far flung corners of the state.

Moreover, his money will buy a vast army of top tier hired guns and mercenary political consultants. As his campaign against Sen. Rob Garagiola showed in 2012, John Delaney knows how to hire good people and run an effective campaign.

John Delaney will bombard a microtargeted universe of likely Democratic Primary voters with glossy mailers and online advertisements. His (paid) canvassers will be at their doors daily. And, months before anyone else can afford to do so, his TV ads will flood living rooms from Silver Spring to Severna Park.

And frankly, that stuff works.

But Money Can’t Buy You Love

Chris Van Hollen will likely retain the loyalties of the northwestern Montgomery County residents he represented prior to redistricting (and are now) in the Sixth District–a real problem for Delaney as he  needs those voters.

Moreover, John Delaney doesn’t have CVH’s massive base of volunteers and true believers. Donna Edwards also has the potential to attract a lot of ground support. These canvassers tend to be more effective than those in it for the (small) paycheck because they actually believe in the candidate.

Delaney’s opponents may argue that he made a fortune as a predatory lender. Moreover, ss dozens of other self funders have taught us, all the money in the world can’t buy enough advertising to make voters change their minds if they decide they don’t like you or just prefer someone else even if you’re a good candidate.


Labor Unions across the board united to oppose John Delaney’s first congressional bid. He’s since returned the animosity through numerous votes on infrastructure issues, which has angered the more traditionalist factions like the building trades and the AFL-CIO. He has also cast pro-Wall Street votes on the Financial Services committee, which has angered the more movement progressive type unions like SEIU. It can be expected that they will put whatever clout they have into denying him a promotion to the Senate.

Overlap and Niche

As a white Montgomery County congressmen, Delaney and CVH share the most base overlap.

Delaney will also be the most centrist candidate. He has repeatedly touted his moderate proposals and ability to work with Republicans–an approach that looks better in general than primary elections. To the extent a centrist bloc exists in a statewide Maryland Democratic Primary, he largely has that lane to himself. This may give Delaney room for expansion in the Baltimore suburbs, the Eastern Shore, and Southern Maryland.

Delaney also shares several political advisors such as pollster Fred Yang, media firm SKDKnickerbocker and Chief of Staff Justin Schall who work with other potential candidates. They will have to pick a side when their clients challenge each other for higher office.


I’m Supporting Van Hollen for Senate

Dear Readers:

Yesterday, someone emailed me and asked if I’d be willing to lend my name to Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s U.S. Senate campaign. If you read my evaluation of Chris, you won’t be surprised that I replied yes. He has been my representative for many years and I have had the opportunity to see him and his office up close and afar for some time. While the field is still shaking out, I am not just comfortable but excited to support Chris Van Hollen for Senate.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other good candidates out there and I imagine many of you, in both parties, will be supporting someone else. That’s what makes democracy great. Seventh State will still cover the Senate race and I plan to call them as I see them. I have not shied away from writing about problems in other campaigns that I support and I won’t pretend that someone is winning when they’re losing.

At the same time, I thought you should know. Thanks for reading.



Senator Sarbanes?

With the retirement of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, scores of talented and ambitious politicians are weighing a bid for her seat. Here we take a look at one of them: Rep. John Sarbanes.


John Sarbanes is a telegenic, fairly young rank and file representative from the Baltimore area.

John Sarbanes is also the son of Paul Sarbanes, a political giant who held one of Maryland’s Senate Seats until 2006. (His brother Michael also ran for Baltimore City Council President in 2007.) As such he comes with instant name ID and a brand to lean on that’s particularly strong among white voters in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

The Sarbanes family is very prominent in the national Greek community, which can be a potent fundraising source, and a very active ethnic community in Maryland politics. It also doesn’t hurt that his father was from Salisbury on the Eastern Shore.

The only wrinkle in the ointment here is that Maryland has rejected some scions for higher office. Beyond Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend and Mark Shriver in 2002, Democratic voters more recently did not support Del. Jon Cardin’s bid for attorney general. However, Sarbanes is already a federal official, and these three hardly provide evidence of a definitive trend.

A Statewide District 

Sarbanes currently represents Maryland’s Third Congressional District, which due to it’s gerrymandered nature takes in parts of Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore Counties as well as pieces of Baltimore City. As such, Sarbanes has had the opportunity to be a presence across central Maryland.

He will however likely be strongest among white voters in the city of Baltimore and its suburbs. O’Malley’s decision to forego leaves Sarbanes poised to be the only white Democratic candidate from the Baltimore area–unless Dutch Ruppersberger dives into the race.


Sarbanes has often made campaign finance reform a key issue in his campaigns. In 2012, he forced himself to collect one thousand checks of $100 or less from first time donors within his district before he could unlock a $500,000 war chest of previously raised funds. His website says he expanded this program in 2014.

Such a model would not be viable in a statewide effort where budgets are expected to reach eight figures. How he balances his commitment to campaign finance reform with the realities of a bid for higher office will be an interesting dynamic to observe.

Overlap with other Candidates 

Few of the most prominent candidates considering the race would be able to chunk out the Sarbanes base among white voters in metropolitan Baltimore, although Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has historically enjoyed substantive support in the white precincts of Baltimore City.

How he expands beyond the 410 area code will be a quandary for Sarbanes to consider over the next few days.


Analysis: Decisive Van Hollen Jumps In the Race

Chris Van Hollen Takes on FOX News

I had wondered if Chris Van Hollen might play Hamlet and have a tough time making a decision on whether or not to enter the Senate race. After all, he ranks high in the House Leadership and was tipped as a strong candidate for Speaker. But I didn’t have to wonder for long. Rep. Van Hollen acted decisively and entered the race.

He brings a lot of major advantages to his candidacy.

Strong Montgomery Base

Chris Van Hollen’s base in Montgomery is strong and large. Thanks to redistricting, he has represented most of it at one time or another. While we have many well-liked pols, Chris is the most widely popular and respected. Put another way, his is the endorsement that most state legislative candidates in the County want on their mailers.

He will have a large army of loyal and excited volunteers, including many who worked on his congressional campaign. Equally important, he already has very smart advisers such as Joan Kleinman and Karen MacManus. Like so many originally from Louisiana, Karen has very quick political sense and a formidable ability to organize and get things done.


Van Hollen’s campaign will be very well funded. The Sun reported that he already has $1.7 million cash-on-hand. As a former head of the DCCC, his network could hardly be more extensive. Having raised so much money for many his colleagues, he may benefit from their support is well.

Record and Skill Set

But the most important advantage held by Van Hollen is that many see him as the full package: a policy wonk who can also strategize and communicate. He has always been fast on his feet challenging Republicans on the floor or on television. Equally important, he conveys the Democratic message in an appealing and completely understandable way.

And Rep. Van Hollen doesn’t do this by temporizing. He is unafraid to stand up for progressive priorities, such as when he opposed the CROmnibus. Just watch one of many examples in the above clips in which he wins the debate not just intellectually but in terms of communication even on FOX.

Like Sen. Barbara Mikulski, he is good at looking after the home team as well. For example, he worked to secure at $15 million federal grant that allowed 14 Maryland community colleges to train workers in cyber security. Another $300K federal grant helped to provide “technical training to veteran-owned businesses seeking federal procurement opportunities.”

Challenges and Overlap with Other Candidates

Some fear that he may suffer from the same problem as Mike Barnes did when he ran for Senate in 1986. Rep. Barnes carried Montgomery handily but failed to make inroads elsewhere. A key difference from 1986 is that Mikulski had already run for Senate in a general election. Though she lost that uphill race against Sen. Mac Mathias, she gained both credibility and name recognition. No sitting representative in Maryland has that advantage.

Nonetheless, Chris will have to break out of Montgomery. He has represented portions of other counties. His connections from his days in the state legislature may also help these efforts. It will also aid the Van Hollen campaign if other Montgomery based candidates like John Delaney and Heather Mizeur stay out of the race.


Chris Van Hollen is in for Senate


Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-8) announced in an email to supporters and Facebook posts today that he in for the 2016 Senate race. Arelis Hernández at The Washington Post and John Fritze at the Baltimore Sun already have stories up. Here is the post from his Facebook page:

I am excited to share that I have decided to run for the United States Senate from our great State of Maryland. I am very grateful to the citizens of Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District for the opportunity to represent them and want to thank the many Marylanders who, over the last 48 hours, have called, sent text messages, or emailed to urge me to run for the United States Senate. A more formal announcement will come later, but I wanted to let you know of my plans.

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming campaign and a healthy exchange of ideas. In my very first election for Congress I believed that people were tired of politics as usual, and I ran a campaign based on key issues and ideas that matter to our future. The same is true today.

The promise of America is that every individual — regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation – will be given an equal opportunity to succeed and prosper. We have fallen short on that promise. I believe that one of the key challenges of our time is the struggle to make sure that America works for all its citizens, not just the wealthy few.

I am committed to working every day, as I have in my years in the Congress, for policies that ensure equal access to quality education, provide good paying jobs, a strong middle class, and a healthy state, country, and planet for future generations.

In January, I put forward an economic Action Plan to generate more growth in our economy with more shared prosperity. Despite important economic progress, too many hard working families across Maryland and around our country have been struggling to make ends meet. For the last 20 years, as the productivity of our workforce has increased dramatically, paychecks have remained flat. We must unite to promote a tax system that rewards hard work, instead of one riddled with loopholes and special deals for the super wealthy and well-connected. We need to make sure that every individual in our state and our country has a chance to climb the ladder of opportunity and build a successful and fulfilling future.

We must sharpen our competitive edge and invest strategically — in education, cutting-edge scientific research, and modern infrastructure — to ensure that every American is equipped to compete in the 21st Century. We must create opportunities for more Americans to save and benefit from the wealth creation that is currently concentrated at the very top of the income ladder.

It is also important that we grow our economy in a way that protects our environment, including our national treasure, the Chesapeake Bay. As the Co-Chair of the Congressional Chesapeake Bay Watershed Caucus I have been honored to work with Maryland’s farmers and conservationists to protect the Bay and preserve it for future generations. I have also been pleased to Co-Chair the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, which is committed to addressing the threats and costs to our communities from the disruptions created by massive carbon pollution and climate change.

Even though our nation is politically polarized today, I continue to believe in the power of ideas to bring people of goodwill together for the common good. I’ve had the opportunity to work across the aisle to get things done on a variety of issues, from funding for the Chesapeake Bay, to expanding research on pediatric cancer, to leveling the playing field for families with children with disabilities by providing equal access to tax-free savings accounts to provide for their children’s future, to protecting federal whistleblowers who take action to ferret out waste, fraud, and abuse.

For 5 long years, I fought to gain the freedom of my constituent, Alan Gross, from a Cuban jail cell and I was honored to travel to Cuba in December to finally bring Alan home. I have also been proud to lead the fight to reduce the influence of secret money and ensure greater transparency and accountability in our electoral process.

I have always believed in the power of the democratic process to further strengthen our nation, to build on the progress we have made, and to create an ever more perfect union. I look forward to hearing your views in the coming days and weeks on how, together, we can achieve these goals and continue the fight to get things done for our great State of Maryland and our country.

Thank you,

Chris Van Hollen



Donna Edwards for Senate?

Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, NC

Addressing the Democratic National Convention

As Sen. Barbara Mikulski announces her retirement, people aspiring to win the seat are already eying not just it but each other. Here is a first look at one potential candidate who could be a top contender: Donna Edwards

Progressive Backing

The Fourth District representative brings a lot to her candidacy. With firm backing from national and local progressives (read: left-wing Democrats), she unseated Rep. Al Wynn in 2008. Del. David Moon sent out an email yesterday from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee calling for her to run. (Clarification: David was forwarding the email so people could see it and has not endorsed any candidate.)

Her potential to attract both progressive and African-American voters–very large groups in any statewide Democratic primary–makes her a formidable candidate. Thanks to redistricting, she has represented much of Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties.

These are very big advantages. Unlike Anthony Brown, she has real potential to fire up the left-wing Democratic party base. People who would like to see a woman take Barbara Mikulski’s seat may well also be inspired to support Edwards. In short, there is a real market for a candidate with Edwards’ political profile.


Edwards is not popular with the Democratic establishment but I don’t really see that as a barrier. A much bigger problem is whether she can raise the money needed for a Senate bid. She currently has just $30,000 in her congressional campaign account.

This is not an insurmountable barrier for a Member of Congress who will gain backing from various progressive groups, . But Edwards will have to put in serious phone time as she will face better fundraisers and is starting well behind many other potential candidates.

Problems with Jewish and Pro-Israel Voters?

She may also sail into choppy waters with Jewish and pro-Israel voters. Unhappiness with her record on Israel was one factor that helped propel forward a near challenge by Glenn Ivey in 2012. J Street has strongly supported Edwards but even they criticized her fundraiser with the pro-Palestinian New Policy PAC.

The fundraiser touted that she was one of only 25 representatives to vote against a House resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself” in the Gaza conflict. Actions like these will give pause to voters who have no affection for Benjamin Netanyahu and think Barack Obama is fine on Israel but also do not want someone they perceive as unsympathetic to Israel representing them.

Maryland has one of the highest proportion of Jewish voters in the nation. Jewish Americans tend to vote a high rates and will, like African Americans, figure disproportionately in any statewide Democratic primary. Democrats may also fear that this record could harm her in the general election.

Edwards has received support in the past from some prominent local Jewish leaders. But will it be enough for her to brush these problems aside?


Rep. Edwards has served in Congress for six years, and Democrats have been in the minority but all for the first two years of her service. As a result, an Edwards campaign will have to focus more on her positions than her accomplishments, as do her congressional campaign and official congressional websites.

Overlap with Other Candidates

Maryland does not hold runoffs so whoever wins the primary wins the nomination. The supply of candidates will influence the outcome as candidates who have more competitors who can eat into their vote will suffer. This is not a problem peculiar to Donna Edwards–all candidates will worry about this issue. But who would eat into her likely potential voters?

African-American candidates, especially from the Baltimore area like Rep. Elijah Cummings or Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, could make it hard for her to rack up votes there. Edwards and former Del. Heather Mizeur would compete for the same hard-left progressives, though I tend to believe Edwards would crowd Mizeur out. More seriously, Rep. Chris Van Hollen presents challenges for Edwards in Montgomery–a natural potential base for her support.


Updated: Off to the Races

Barbara A. Mikulski

Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 1987–Her First Year as Senator

UPDATE: Martin O’Malley will not seek Senate seat.

As my former co-blogger on Maryland Politics Watch Adam Pagnucco accurately sussed out on Facebook, I am very grateful to Sen. Barbara Mikulski for her surprise retirement decision. While I thoroughly approve of Maryland’s four-year election cycle, it does leave election junkies like me in need of a fix.

On Senator Mikulski

Much will be made of Sen. Mikulski’s political career and, as she said yesterday, it’s not over just yet. I’m still surprised she has chosen to retire because she clearly revels in her job. Moreover, in my view, she remains Maryland’s most popular politician. Anyone who thought they could defeat her was in for a rude shock.

Sen. Mikulski will deservedly get a lot of accolades as someone who blazed a path for women in politics. However, as I once heard Geraldine Ferraro point out many years ago, most Marylanders didn’t vote for her because she is a woman or in spite of her being a women but because she was the person we wanted for the job.

Sen. Mikulski got her start as a local Baltimore activist fighting a highway. Unlike many senators, she isn’t independently wealthy but she has always been a tough organizer and campaigner. Never afraid to learn, she also doesn’t forget her roots and fights relentlessly for Maryland. Most of all, I think people liked voting for her because of her authentic concern and understanding of people.

Democrats for the Senate

Open Senate seats are like rare jewels and there are many people who are eying running for the seat. Here are some of the Democrats rumored to be thinking about it. Doesn’t mean that they will run (or should run) but are in the mix.

Former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown
Rep. Elijah Cummings
Rep. John Delaney
Rep. Donna Edwards
Former State’s Attorney Glen Ivey
Former Del. Jolene Ivey
Former Del. Heather Mizeur
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger
Rep. John Sarbanes
Former County Executive Ken Ulman
Rep. Chris Van Hollen

There is also a list of Democrats that could run but I think won’t run:

County Executive Rushern Baker
Comptroller Peter Franchot
Former Attorney General Doug Gansler

Announced he won’t run today:

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley

Republicans for the Senate

Larry Hogan’s election has got the Republicans dreaming too. While they have a shorter bench of people currently holding elected office, here are some who might jump in:

Don Bongino
Dr. Ben Carson
Former County Executive David Craig
Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich
Former Commissioner Robin Frazier
Rep. Andy Harris
Charles Loller
Former County Executive Laura Neuman
Del. Tony O’Donnell
Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele

And here are Republicans who could run but I think would be unlikely to run:

County Executive Alan Kittleman
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford

The Outsiders

Of course, someone could swoop in from either party and beat the known quantities as John Delaney did in the Sixth Congressional District. However, several credible outsider candidates campaigns just didn’t get any oxygen when Ben Cardin won his open seat.