The ongoing battle between centrist and liberal Democrats looks set to open up a new front in next year’s Maryland Senate race.
Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, two progressive outfits that have worked to steer the Democratic Party leftward, will announce today they are attempting to draft Donna Edwards into the Democratic primary for the Senate seat to be vacated by Barbara Mikulski.
Edwards, a four-term Congresswoman from Prince George’s County, has yet to announce a run, but has indicated she is seriously considering it.
That would put her on a collision course with Chris Van Hollen, a six-term congressman who announced yesterday that he would run for the open Senate seat.
Nearly every other Democrat in Maryland’s congressional delegation has also indicated interest in running, as has Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor and presumed 2016 Democratic presidential contender told reporters on Tuesday he was ruling out a run.
But a fight between Edwards and Van Hollen would bring some of the Democratic Party’s divisions out in the open.
The PCCC in particular arose from a sense among Democrats that their official campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has been too timid in the kinds of candidates that they recruit and rally behind. Van Hollen was chairman of the DCCC in the 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles and currently serves as the group’s finance chairman.
Edwards has been a hero to progressive liberals and activists since even before she was in Congress. A former official with good government groups like Public Citizen and the Center for a New Democracy, she grabbed the attention of the Netroots in 2006 which she waged an underdog campaign against Al Wynn, a centrist Democrat who backed the Iraq War and much of the GOP’s economic agenda.
Edwards ended up losing by three points, but defeated Wynn in a rematch in 2008, becoming the first African-American woman from Maryland elected to Congress in the process.
The PCCC and other liberal groups had a decent record in 2012 in their attempts to defeat Democrats they viewed as too moderate.
In Hawaii, they helped Brian Schatz fend off a challenge from Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, and got behind Ruben Gallego in Arizona and Bonnie Watson Coleman in New Jersey.
Draft movements, such as this one, can be complicated. DFA, for example, is trying to draft Elizabeth Warren into the presidential race, so far without much success. This task could be easier since Edwards has sounded interested in the race, and just needs to be convinced that there is organizational support to back her up in the face of Van Holllen’s superior fundraising abilities.
Mikulski, a New Deal Democrat from a time before the party’s divisions were so stark, held the Senate Seat since 1987, surprised many with the announcement of her retirement earlier this week.
Maryland remains a solidly Democratic state, and whoever makes it out of the Democratic primary would likely face a glide-path to the Senate.