Maryland after Mikulski
© Anne Wernikoff

Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar Bottom Line MORE (D-Md.) is the living, breathing definition of the line, "one of a kind." It is not a cliche or hyperbole to say without reservation that we will not see her like ever again.

As many have repeatedly said, "She doesn't look like a senator." Being under 5 feet tall has never stopped her. She started as a true community organizer and social worker in her native Baltimore. She led an effort to stop a highway from destroying her neighborhood and parlayed that into a Baltimore City Council seat in 1971.


Not shy or lacking ambition, she ran for the U.S. Senate in 1974. She faced an enormously likeable and able liberal Republican incumbent, Charles "Mac" Mathias. She lost. Then two years later, she was elected to the U.S. House and in 1986 she was elected to the U.S. Senate.

She is the longest serving woman in U.S. Senate history and in Congress. Now she has decided not so seek what would be an automatic reelection. She is 78 years old, but more important, her Democratic Party is now in the minority. She rose to chair of the Appropriations Committee. That's clout! But not being in power is, I assume she felt, no fun and not the same.

She left the stage in classic Mikulski fashion, with these words: "Do I spend my time raising money or do I spend my time raising hell?" Leave no doubt, over the next two years Mikulski will not disappear. This old-fashioned liberal with working-class roots and a Baltimore base was unbeatable. I challenge you to name her last Republican opponent in 2010. (It was Eric Wargotz. He got 36 percent of the vote.)

Now the Republicans have delusions of victory and picking up this seat. It won't happen. Yes, I know they pulled an enormous upset for in the gubernatorial election (electing Larry Hogan) but that was an aberration and in a non-presidential year. This seat is safely Democratic in 2016.

Now the talk is who will be the next Democratic senator from Maryland. Just this week, former two-term Gov. Martin O'Malley took himself out of the race. O'Malley is all but an announced candidate for president. He is at this time considered a very long shot. But he is making the rounds in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. His candidacy reminds me of another former governor's quest in 1976 — that of Jimmy Carter. If the presidential run should not succeed, he is a possible candidate for vice president or a Cabinet post if his party takes the White House.

Right now, the two leading contenders are Reps. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOn The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls Mnuchin signals administration won't comply with subpoena for Trump tax returns Dem lawmakers urge FCC to scrutinize broadcast workforce diversity MORE and John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesHillicon Valley: Instagram cracks down on anti-vaccine tags | Facebook co-founder on fallout from call to break up company | House Dems reintroduce election security bill | Lawmakers offer bill requiring cyber, IT training for House House Dems reintroduce bill to protect elections from cyberattacks Leader McConnell, let us vote MORE.

Van Hollen announced this week that he is running for the seat. Obviously, by this move, Van Hollen is forgoing his dreams of one day becoming the Speaker of the U.S. House. I have found Van Hollen to be knowledgeable and substantive, but not terribly exciting or inspiring. He's done all the right things — politically. He's climbed the political ladder, starting with the Maryland state legislature. If I had to sum him up with one word, it would be "conventional."

Sarbanes has the benefit of a very good Maryland political name. His father, Paul Sarbanes, was the longest serving Senator in Maryland history. Previously he had served in the U.S. House. Sarbanes shares his father's low-profile image. His bizarrely shaped district puts his name in many different areas. Right now he has not been prominently mentioned, but other, more active candidates fear his potential.

Two African-American House members are talked about. Longtime Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget On The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls House Oversight Committee requests information on reported Trump plan to send TSA employees to border MORE and Rep. Donna EdwardsDonna F. EdwardsDemocratic Senate candidate blasts own party for racial 'foghorn' Autoworkers' union endorsing Van Hollen in MD Senate race Dem leaders' hard sell pays off on omnibus MORE. Edwards has a compelling life story, but Jewish voters will have a major problem with her and her perceived anti-Israel votes and actions.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is up for reelection in 2016. I seriously doubt her statewide appeal.

Another Baltimore-area congressman mentioned is Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote Overnight Defense: Trump says he may cancel G-20 meeting with Putin | Three service members killed in Afghanistan | Active-shooter drill sparks panic at Walter Reed Panic at Walter Reed after exercise mistaken as active shooter MORE. He has been Hamlet-like for other offices and his appeal, I believe, would be limited to Baltimore County.

The guy with the big bucks and who would self-finance his campaign is Rep. John Delaney. Delaney barely won his district in a surprisingly close election last year. In limited contact with him, I found him to be "all hat, no cattle." Says nothing memorable or insightful and there is a terribly scripted patina to him.

One who is without a doubt the reigning lefty in the field is State Sen. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Dems plan 12-hour marathon Mueller report reading at Capitol Dems warn of 'constitutional crisis' but wary of impeachment MORE. Raskin is a law professor at American University and a former editor of the Harvard Law Review (something he doesn't remind you of or mention, unlike our president). Raskin suffers from the pejorative moniker "Takoma Park liberal." Takoma Park is widely called "Berkeley (Calif.) East." Raskin is brilliant and genuinely funny. In a debate, he would clobber any of his opponents and is by far the most appealing and attractive candidate. But the rap on him would be that he is too far to the left and can't get votes out of his local district. Raskin might have the last laugh, because if he decides not to run for the U.S. Senate, he could run for Van Hollen's House seat and would be the favorite for that position.

Look, it's a free country; everybody thinks they have a chance. This race will evolve. Some will drop out. So there's plenty of time to muse further. One thing is certain: The Democrats will hold this seat.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.