BALTIMORE, MD – “I can’t think of any Democrat not considering running” said Paul Sarbanes, regarding the primary to determine a successor to fellow Democrat Barbara Mikulski, who announced that she will not seek reelection to the U.S. Senate when her term expires at the end of 2006. Sarbanes ought to know: like Mikulski, he was a longstanding U.S. Senator from Maryland, serving 30 years since first elected in 1976. Prior to that, Sarbanes had served as a U.S. Congressman for three terms.
Mikulski, who after 28 years leaves the Senate as that chamber’s longest-ever serving woman, leaves a vacancy wide open for a potential sea of Democratic challengers and, surprisingly, Republicans, too.
The traditionally blue state went Republican last year, when Larry Hogan upset Democrat Anthony Brown in a narrow victory to become Maryland’s new governor, replacing Martin O’Malley, who was term-limited from seeking a third consecutive cycle. Though Martin remains a popular politician among Democrats – particularly the more progressive faction – he is not a likely candidate for Mikulski’s Senate seat, as he has expressed interest in seeking a presidential bid. Given the recent email controversy surrounding perennial frontrunner Hillary Clinton, the Democrats are becoming more serious about a Plan B in case Clinton’s candidacy implodes before it even begins, and O’Malley is on their short list.
Meanwhile, back to Maryland…Hogan’s victory aside, the state remains predominantly Democratic.
Jumping out as the early frontrunners are House members Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, both of whom are commanding most of the headlines. But among those not to be counted out just yet – at least not until and unless he formally indicates otherwise – is their colleague, Congressman John Sarbanes, who holds his father’s old House seat at the moment.
In a recent interview for the occasion of the commemoration and celebration of the 100th anniversary of this newspaper’s sister publication, the National Herald-Ethnikos Kyrix, the elder Sarbanes did not indicate one way or the other whether his son is planning to enter the race. “I give him advice whether he asks for it or not,” Sarbanes joked, and added: “he listens, and then makes his own judgment. And he’s doing a good job.”
Paul Sarbanes, throughout his 36-year career in Congress, was a consistent and staunch advocate for Greek-American issues, particularly the Cyprus Problem. The 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus happened very early in Sarbanes career on Capitol Hill, and he was instrumental in lobbying the U.S. government for support. His son John has followed in those footsteps. A member of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, he is lobbying President Obama to protect Greece’s interests from overly harsh conditions imposed by its lenders.
Even as Edwards and Van Hollen continue to grab the lion’s share of press coverage, if Sarbanes chooses to enter the race, he will surely have the support of two important factions: the Greek-American community, which appreciates his continued efforts in the Hellenic Caucus, and Maryland Democrats, for whom having a Sarbanes in the U.S. Senate is only natural.