Prince George’s chief prosecutor, Glenn Ivey, is being encouraged by several senior aides to former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to seek the Senate seat being vacated by Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Ivey said yesterday.
While attending a party Friday for Daschle and his former Senate staff at an Alexandria restaurant, numerous associates of the senator “raised the Senate issue,” said Ivey, who was elected the county’s state’s attorney in 2002.
Ivey, who was Daschle’s chief counsel from 1997-1998, stressed that before jumping into a Democratic primary, he would need to know how much money was available.
He estimated that the primary in the Democratic-leaning state would cost $5 million while the general election could run between $5 million and $10 million.
Ivey added that he did not expect his former boss to back him in a Democratic primary but said that the senator’s extensive contacts could prove vital.
Referring to Daschle, Ivey said: “He’s the kind of guy who has a national network of supporters and donors you need to raise the money.” Ivey said he left the party, at the Torpedo Factory, with at least 40 business cards from former Daschle aides.
Ivey said that approximately 200 people attended the party. He added, “I probably talked to 150 people” at the event.
Both Ivey and Daschle said the two did not discuss the Senate race Friday. But Daschle did say in an e-mail yesterday that he is “very fond of [Ivey] and admire him a great deal. He is smart, accomplished and a very decent person. He would make a terrific candidate for public office.”
Other Democrats also praised Ivey, calling the 44-year-old a rising star in the party.
“I think he would be a formidable candidate,” the Maryland Democratic Party’s spokesman, Derek Walker, said. “He is a visionary guy. He has a lot of clout.”
Judy Thatcher, a legislative aide in the Prince George’s County Council, called Ivey a “grassroots” guy who had spent the past three years forging close contacts with community leaders.
With a population of more than 800,000, the county offers Ivey a larger political base than that of either of the congressmen considering a Senate bid — Reps. Christopher Van Hollen and Benjamin Cardin, both Maryland Democrats.
Van Hollen, in a telephone interview, said he, too, had been in contact with leading Democrats. “I’ve been speaking with Democrats in Maryland,” he said. “That’s where the election is going to be.”
Van Hollen declined to say how much the race would cost, but did say that with more than $700,000 in the bank, “we are in a strong position right now.”
Cardin did not return a call seeking comment about the Senate race. Representatives for both House members said they are still mulling over their options.
Former congressman and former head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Kweisi Mfume already has declared his candidacy for the Democratic Senate nomination.
While Democrats have voiced confidence in holding onto the Senate seat, Republicans are not about to roll over. In the past few weeks, numerous leading Republicans have begun coalescing around Lieutenant Gov. Michael Steele (R).
Like Ivey and Mfume, Steele is black, meaning that he would presumably neutralize some of Ivey’s appeal to the African-American community. And unlike Ivey, Steele has run successfully statewide.
Besides Steele, Republicans are quick to point out, Maryland also elected in 2002 a Republican governor, Robert Ehrlich. Earlier, there had been talk in some Republican circles that the governor’s wife, Kendel Ehrlich, was considering a Senate candidacy.
Other Republican sources in Washington have said that, at the very least, the Maryland race forces Democrats to channel resources into the state and away from other competitive races.
A Maryland Democratic source said Ivey is likely to get more encouragement to run for the Senate seat at a Kennedy-King dinner in Maryland on Friday. “A lot of prominent Democrats will be attending,” the source said.
Maryland has one of four open Senate seats in 2006. The others are Tennessee, New Jersey and Minnesota.