By Rachel Weiner, washingtonpost.com
Rep. Chris Van Hollen won a hard-fought Senate primary that exposed racial and gender divisions within the Maryland Democratic Party, defeating Rep. Donna F. Edwards for the nomination. He will compete in November for a rare open Senate seat, from which Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) is retiring after 30 years.
African American turnout reached record levels, exceeding 2008, when Barack Obama first ran for president, and outnumbering white voters, according to exit polls. Yet the candidate who would have been Maryland’s first black senator and the second black woman to ever serve in the U.S. Senate fell short.
Moments after conceding at a union hall in Prince George’s County, Edwards gave a pointed speech, criticizing her “friends in the state Democratic Party,” which she said is on the verge of “an all-male delegation in a so-called progressive state.” She said Democrats cannot continue to ignore women and people of color.
At a Bethesda Marriott, a crowd of 300 heard Van Hollen praise Edwards “for being a strong advocate for Democratic Party values and priorities.”
Asked about the prospect of Maryland’s first all-male congressional delegation since Mikulski’s election in 1986, Van Hollen said he has worked to elect people of all backgrounds and has support from female and African American elected officials.
“Ultimately, people decide who is best to represent all of us,” he said. “I’m going to fight hard as I always have to make sure we address issues that are important to women, families, all of us.”
Van Hollen ultimately won a third of the black electorate, which, combined with his strength among white, wealthier, older and more-educated voters catapulted him to the lead.
In a year when outsiders have captured the national imagination, Maryland Democrats chose the insiders: the deal-making Van Hollen and presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Democratic and Republican voters also cast ballots in primaries for the U.S. House and several local races, including for Baltimore mayor. Former Maryland lieutenant governor Anthony G. Brown edged out his closest primary rival to win the Democratic nomination in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District. Brown will face Republican George E. McDermott in the general election.