Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D)
Elected: 1986, term expires 2010, 4th term.
Born: July 20, 1936, Baltimore .
Education: Mt. St. Agnes Col., B.A. 1958, U. of MD, M.S.W. 1965.
Elected office: Baltimore City Cncl., 1971–76; U.S. House of Reps., 1976–86.
Professional Career: Social worker, Baltimore Dept. of Social Svcs., 1965–70; Chmn., DNC Delegate Selection Comm., 1972; Adjunct prof., Loyola Col., 1972–76.
Barbara Mikulski, Maryland’s senior senator, was first elected to the House in 1976 and to the Senate in 1986. She has deep roots in immigrant, urban America and a fascination for the new technology and jobs growing in edge cities and beyond. She doesn’t look or sound like a traditional politician—just shy of 5 feet and stocky, she has a gruff and unpolished manner—but she is a savvy Senate insider. Her roots are in East Baltimore, where her Polish immigrant grandparents ran a bakery, and her father had a grocery store. She graduated from Mount St. Agnes College, earned a social work degree at the University of Maryland, and got a job as a social worker, helping at-risk children and educating seniors about Medicare. She entered politics by organizing a grassroots effort to stop a highway from going through the Highlandtown neighborhood where she grew up. She won, saving the now-thriving Inner Harbor, and went on to win a seat on the Baltimore City Council in 1971. She ran for the Senate in 1974, and got a respectable 43% against Republican incumbent Charles Mathias. When Democratic Rep. Paul Sarbanes ran for the other Senate seat in 1976, Mikulski made a bid for his 3rd District House seat and won. Ten years later, when Mathias retired, she gave up her safe seat for what seemed like a chancy Senate race. She won handily, with 50% in the primary to 31% for Democratic Rep. Michael Barnes, and 14% for Gov. Harry Hughes. In the general election, she beat Republican Linda Chavez, a Reagan-era civil-rights commission official, 61%-39%. She still lives in Baltimore and commutes to Washington. Her Baltimore office is in Fells Point, the city’s original port area. She has a sideline writing mystery novels. She coauthored Capitol Offense and Capitol Venture, stories featuring the character Eleanor “Norie” Gorzack, a freshman senator from Pennsylvania.
|Barbara Mikulski (D)||1,504,691||(65%)||($5,997,093)|
|E. J. Pipkin (R)||783,055||(34%)||($2,300,354)|
|Barbara Mikulski (D)||408,848||(90%)|
|Ted Kaufman (D)||32,127||(7%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 1998 (71%), 1992 (71%), 1986 (61%), 1984 House (68%), 1982 House (74%), 1980 House (76%), 1978 House (100%), 1976 House (75%)
Mikulski was the first woman elected to the Senate whose husband or father did not serve in high office. She is fond of calling herself “a social worker … with power.” In her early years, the only other woman in the Senate was Republican Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas. Every two years since 1992, Mikulski has held workshops for new women senators to help them quickly learn the ropes in what is still a male-dominated realm. Mikulski is one of just 17 women in the Senate, and she takes seriously her role as dean of the women. “When I came … we were a bit of a novelty in the Senate,” she said. “I think what we see now is that we’re not viewed as a novelty. We’re not viewed as celebrities. We’re viewed as senators.” Mikulski’s policy agenda includes many initiatives aimed at women, such as establishing mammography clinic standards and homemaker IRAs.
In her first term, Mikulski won a seat on the Appropriations Committee, and within two years, she was chairman of a subcommittee handling housing, space, and veterans’ programs. Now she chairs the revamped Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee, which also includes NASA. Mikulski has been one of the Senate’s chief advocates of the space program and an enthusiast for space exploration. She has paid close attention to funding for the Goddard Space Center, the Wallops Flight Facility, and Johns Hopkins’s Applied Science Lab in Maryland. She is a champion of a future mission to Pluto, the only unexplored plant in the solar system, stating, “Pluto is a bargain at less than $500 million.” She called the Hubble Space Telescope “the most successful NASA program since Apollo,” and the best telescope “since Galileo invented the first one.” And in 2004, she bitterly criticized NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe for his decision to let the Hubble project die. The same year, she and Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison moved to add $800 million to NASA’s appropriation to repair the space shuttle fleet and service the Hubble Space Telescope. In 2006, she won a big victory when the new NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin, announced that the agency could repair and upgrade Hubble safely and within budget. The Hubble program provides about 1,000 jobs for Maryland. Her other work on the subcommittee has been directed at funding for Maryland highways, housing, homeland security at the Port of Baltimore, cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, and research on oyster-bed reseeding in the bay. In 2008, her subcommittee bill would have increased President Bush’s budget by $4.2 billion, but Congress did not complete work on the bill.
On domestic policy, Mikulski is a strong advocate of abortion rights and a solid liberal, although she sometimes votes for Republican initiatives, such as the bipartisan Welfare Reform Act of 1996. On the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, she has taken a special interest in elder abuse and neglect, and long-term care. Her “Safety of Seniors Act,” enacted in 2008, promoted education and research related to falls by senior citizens, a common cause of catastrophic injury. She has also been a leader in opposing Republican efforts to contract out government work to private firms. In 2005, she and Republican Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio struck from a major pension bill a provision that would have required companies with poor credit to pay more into their pension funds, arguing that it would hurt small businesses. She has fought to extend a visa program to permit more seasonal foreign workers to assist Maryland’s seafood processors. After voting for many years against higher fuel-efficiency standards— Maryland is home to auto assembly plants—Mikulski concluded in 2007, “It is time for a change.” She supported the first major increase in fuel-efficiency standards in three decades.
Mikulski’s toughest Senate election was her first, which she won against strong competition. Since then, she has not had a serious contest. In 2004, she faced Republican state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, a Dundalk native who made millions as a bond trader on Wall Street and returned to live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He put $1 million of his own money into the race and argued that Mikulski’s voting record was too far to the left (“Who knew?” his campaign spots asked), and that she had not done enough to preserve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Mikulski managed to outspend him 2-1 in Maryland’s most expensive Senate race, and won 65%-34%. Pipkin carried his state Senate district, two counties in western Maryland, and two exurban Baltimore counties. In 1995, Mikulski was mugged near her Fells Point townhouse, and subsequently moved to a more secure condominium building in Baltimore. In 2005, she was briefly hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat. Some Maryland Democrats have speculated that she might retire in 2010, at age 74, setting off a wide-open Democratic primary similar to 2006 when Sarbanes retired. But Mikulski has signaled she plans to seek a fifth Senate term. If she is re-elected in 2010, she would move into second place behind Sarbanes, who represented Maryland in the Senate for a record 30 years. In 2008, Mikulski was a national co-chair of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.