Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1986, term expires 2016, 5th term.

Born: July 20, 1936, Baltimore

Home: Baltimore

Education: Mt. St. Agnes Col., B.A. 1958, U. of MD, M.S.W. 1965

Professional Career: Social worker, Baltimore Dept. of Social Svcs., 1965–70; Chmn., DNC Delegate Selection Comm., 1972; Adjunct prof., Loyola Col., 1972–76.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Catholic

Family: single

Democrat Barbara Mikulski, Maryland’s senior senator, was first elected to the House in 1976 and to the Senate in 1986. In March 2012, she became the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress. Mikulski 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, and in January 2013 she assumed the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, continuing in 2015 as the panel's top Democrat.

Mikulski surprised observers when she announced on March 2, 2015 that she wouldn't seek another term. She said she preferred to focus on legislating and not fundraising or campaigning. "Because every day, I want to wake up thinking about you—the little guys and gals, the watermen, automobile workers, researchers, small-business owners and families,” she said. “I want to give you 120 percent of my time with all of my energy focused on you and your futures."

Mikulski’s roots are in East Baltimore, where her Polish immigrant grandparents ran a bakery, and her father had a grocery store. She attended the Institute of Notre Dame—the same high school that produced House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi—graduated from Mount St. Agnes College and earned a social work degree at the University of Maryland. She got a job as a social worker, helping at-risk children and educating seniors about Medicare. She drew national attention for a 1970 speech in which she urged more respect for “ethnic Americans” —working-class whites whose families had emigrated from Europe—and called for an alliance of whites and blacks against “those who have power.” Mikulski still lives in Baltimore and commutes to Washington. Her Baltimore office is in Fells Point, the city’s original port area. She has had a sideline writing mystery novels. She coauthored Capitol Offense and Capitol Venture, stories featuring the character Eleanor “Norie” Gorzack, a freshman senator from Pennsylvania.

She first got involved in politics when she organized 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.

Mikulski ran for the Senate in 1974, and got a respectable 43% against Republican incumbent Charles Mathias. When Democratic Rep. Paul Sarbanes ran for the state’s 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 the primary handily, with 50%, to 31% for Democratic Rep. Michael Barnes, and 14% for Gov. Harry Hughes. In the general election, she beat Republican Linda Chavez, a Civil Rights Commission official under President Reagan, 61%-39%.

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 learn the ropes in what is still a male-dominated realm. Mikulski is now one of 20 women in the Senate — one fewer than were in all of Congress when she first arrived — and she takes seriously her role as dean of the women. “When women are in the halls of power, our national debate reflects the needs and dreams of American families,” she said at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Mikulski’s policy agenda includes many initiatives aimed at women, such as establishing mammography clinic standards and homemaker Individual Retirement Accounts. She got an amendment added to the health care overhaul in 2010 requiring mammograms and other preventative services for women with no copayment—a swipe at a Republican argument that restricting mammograms would be the first step in the Democrats’ plan to ration health care. “For many insurance companies, simply being a woman is a preexisting condition,” she said during debate on the measure.

Mikulski evinces little interest in the usual niceties of politics. She can snap at reporters whom she feels don’t get to the point quickly enough, and at committee hearings she is a self-described “table-pounder” who will rebuke witnesses she disagrees with. In Washingtonian magazine’s annual survey of anonymous staffers, she is routinely named “meanest senator.” But her admirers say they appreciate always knowing where she stands. “You never say anything you don’t mean,” Vice President Joe Biden, a former longtime Senate colleague, told her at a reception honoring her longevity. And they admire her energy. “Senator Mikulski knows only one speed, and that is full speed ahead,” Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said in 2012.

Mikulski took over the Appropriations chairmanship after Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye’s death in December 2012. The panel lost much of its luster after the Senate banned earmarks, and spending bills are now routinely lumped together in continuing resolutions because Congress is too polarized to deal with them individually. But she vowed to preside over its reinvigoration. She has been on Appropriations since her first term, and eventually moved up to chair the revamped Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, which also includes NASA. Working closely with her House counterpart, Kentucky Republican Harold Rogers, she was able to get Congress in January 2014 to adopt an omnibus spending bill. The measure was the first since 2009 in which lawmakers didn't settle for a status-quo continuing resolution. Rogers praised her "open-minded approach to negotiations."

In 2014, Mikulski allied with two other Republicans, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, to get a bill to reauthorize child-care and development programs through the Senate in March on a 96-2 vote. Around the same time, she flatly indicated she wasn't interested in Obama's call for additional spending and a tax hike. "We have a budget agreement for fiscal year 2015, and the Senate Appropriations Committee will adhere to the spending caps in that deal," she said. Later, however, she worked with other senior Democrats to hold up action on two spending bills. One was a measure funding energy and water development programs on which Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened to add an amendment blunting the Environmental Protection Agency's authority on regulating coal. The other was a measure funding the departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services that also drew White House veto threats.

On a local matter, Mikulski dared to cross popular Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley when she added language to the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill that could prevent the Navy from finalizing an agreement with developers of a wind farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore until researchers study how to mitigate the effects of the wind turbines. O'Malley had vetoed legislation in Maryland's General Assembly that imposed a delay, saying further study was unneccessary.

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 Flight Center and the Wallops Flight Facility. In 2006, she won a big victory when new NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced that the agency could repair and upgrade the Hubble telescope safely and within budget. Since then, she has pressed NASA to move more quickly and cheaply in proceeding with the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s more powerful but over-budget successor that is planned for launch in 2018. Grateful astronomers using the Hubble announced in April 2012 that they had named an exploding star “Supernova Mikulski” in her honor.

Her other work on the Commerce subcommittee has been directed at funding for Maryland highways, homeland security at the Port of Baltimore, cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, and research on oyster-bed reseeding in the bay. As a member of the Select Intelligence Committee, she keeps an eye out for the National Security Agency, the eavesdropping arm of the spy community headquartered at Fort Meade north of Washington, and has been a leading voice on the need for tougher cyber security laws. She also led the effort to get the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity program established at the University of Maryland in 2009.

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. She considers one of her proudest achievements the Spousal Anti-Impoverishment Act, a 1988 law helping seniors stay afloat financially while coping with the costs of nursing home care for spouses. She has also been a leader in opposing Republican efforts to contract out government work to private firms.

A national co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, she has been lukewarm toward President Barack Obama. She disagreed with his administration’s proposal to allow offshore oil drilling in Maryland and in December 2012 blasted the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision to deny individual assistance to those in her state hit by Hurricane Sandy. When Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew didn’t answer questions to her satisfaction about Obama’s negotiations with Republicans over raising the debt limit in July 2011, according to The Washington Post, she disgustedly told colleagues, “I haven’t seen a meeting like this in my 35 years in Congress.” She told reporters she was unhappy she wasn’t informed about potential changes to Social Security and Medicare. “Good politics starts with good communication, and I think they should have come and talked to us about the direction, particularly when it’s the social contract and we feel so strongly about it,” she said.

Mikulski has not had a serious reelection contest. In 2004, she faced Republican state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, a Dundalk native who made millions as a Wall Street bond trader 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, and that she had not done enough to preserve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Mikulski outspent him by more than 2-1 and won 65%-34%.

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 speculated that she might retire in 2010, at age 74, setting off a wide-open Democratic primary. Former GOP Gov. Robert Ehrlich indicated that he was mulling a possible challenge. But he backed off, deciding instead to run against O’Malley, and Mikulski easily won a fifth term with 62% of the vote.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-4654

(202) 224-8858

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 503
Washington, DC 20510-2003

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-4654

(202) 224-8858

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 503
Washington, DC 20510-2003

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 962-4510

(410) 962-4760

901 South Bond Street Suite 310
Baltimore, MD 21231-3449

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 962-4510

(410) 962-4760

901 South Bond Street Suite 310
Baltimore, MD 21231-3449

DISTRICT OFFICE

(301) 345-5517

(301) 345-7573

6404 Ivy Lane Suite 406
Greenbelt, MD 20770-1407

DISTRICT OFFICE

(301) 345-5517

(301) 345-7573

6404 Ivy Lane Suite 406
Greenbelt, MD 20770-1407

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 263-1805

(410) 263-5949

60 West Street Suite 202
Annapolis, MD 21401-2448

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 263-1805

(410) 263-5949

60 West Street Suite 202
Annapolis, MD 21401-2448

DISTRICT OFFICE

(301) 797-2826

(301) 797-2241

32 West Washington Street Room 203
Hagerstown, MD 21740-4804

DISTRICT OFFICE

(301) 797-2826

(301) 797-2241

32 West Washington Street Room 203
Hagerstown, MD 21740-4804

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 546-7711

(410) 546-9324

The Gallery Plaza Building Suite 200
Salisbury, MD 21801-5106

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 546-7711

(410) 546-9324

The Gallery Plaza Building Suite 200
Salisbury, MD 21801-5106

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Amanda Shelton
Legislative Aide

Acquisitions

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Agriculture

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Michelle McGrain
Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Jean Doyle
Legislative Director (On Leave)

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Arts

Brent Palmer
Legislative Assistant

Banking

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Betsy Dudley
Legislative Correspondent

Budget

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Campaign

Kelley Powell
Legislative Assistant

Commerce

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Congress

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Crime

Kelley Powell
Legislative Assistant

Education

Brent Palmer
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Amanda Shelton
Legislative Aide

Energy

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Michelle McGrain
Legislative Assistant

Environment

Reed Perry
Legislative Aide

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Michelle McGrain
Legislative Assistant

Finance

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Foreign

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Kelley Powell
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Govt Ops

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Michelle McGrain
Legislative Assistant

Grants

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Gun Issues

Kelley Powell
Legislative Assistant

Health

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Amanda Shelton
Legislative Aide

Homeland Security

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Michelle McGrain
Legislative Assistant

Housing

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Michelle McGrain
Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Kelley Powell
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Immigration

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Michelle McGrain
Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Kelley Powell
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Michelle McGrain
Legislative Assistant

Labor

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Michelle McGrain
Legislative Assistant

Amanda Shelton
Legislative Aide

Betsy Dudley
Legislative Correspondent

Land Use

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Military

Kelley Powell
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Betsy Dudley
Legislative Correspondent

National Security

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Public Works

Reed Perry
Legislative Aide

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Rural Affairs

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Science

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Small Business

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Social Security

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Betsy Dudley
Legislative Correspondent

Tax

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Technology

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Telecommunications

Chad Bolt
Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Michelle McGrain
Legislative Assistant

Urban Affairs

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Veterans

Kelley Powell
Legislative Assistant

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Welfare

Brigid Houton
Senior Advisor

Election Results

2010 GENERAL
Barbara Mikulski
Votes: 1,140,531
Percent: 62.19%
Eric Wargotz
Votes: 655,666
Percent: 35.75%
2010 PRIMARY
Barbara Mikulski
Votes: 396,252
Percent: 82.0%
Christopher Garner
Votes: 36,194
Percent: 8.0%
2004 GENERAL
Barbara Mikulski
Votes: 1,504,691
Percent: 65.0%
E. J. Pipkin
Votes: 783,055
Percent: 34.0%
2004 PRIMARY
Barbara Mikulski
Votes: 408,848
Percent: 90.0%
Ted Kaufman
Votes: 32,127
Percent: 7.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2004 (65%), 1998 (71%), 1992 (71%), 1986 (61%); House: 1984 (68%), 1982 (74%), 1980 (76%), 1978 (100%), 1976 (75%)

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