Rep. Chris Van Hollen won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, defeating Rep. Donna Edwards in a long battle that divided fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill in a race to find a successor to retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
Van Hollen pointed to his record as a pragmatic progressive who is able to reach across the political aisle to get things done. Edwards campaigned as a candidate more committed to holding liberal principles without settling for political deals.
In his victory speech, Van Hollen noted Mikulski’s commitment to remembering her constituents.
“And so tonight, I want to say to all Marylanders, whether you are from Baltimore city or Baltimore County to the Baltimore area, whether you are from the Washington suburbs or from Western Maryland or Southern Maryland or the Eastern Shore, I will fight hard for you every day in the United States Senate,” Van Hollen said.
Voters often said they liked both candidates and found the choice difficult.
“I’ve seen him in the leadership a much longer time than Donna Edwards, who I also like,” said Jeff Studds, a 60-year-old retired middle school teacher who voted for Van Hollen.
Results were delayed an hour after a Baltimore judge ordered four city polling places to each stay open an extra hour because they opened late. Edwards had sought the order.
The contest was a polarizing battle over race, gender and personality to replace the nation’s longest-serving female senator. The White House and prominent national Democrats weighed in on behalf of Van Hollen, even as Edwards backers insisted that her opportunity to become only the second black female U.S. senator in history should not be denied. She became the first black woman to win election to Congress in Maryland in 2008.
“It’s about building a progressive movement all across our state and across our country,” Edwards said after conceding.
The contest was characterized by negative political ads and heated debates. Edwards criticized Van Hollen as a Washington insider, too willing to compromise liberal principles for a political deal. But Van Hollen pointed to a progressive record and a willingness to work across party lines.
Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping to ride GOP Gov. Larry Hogan’s popularity in November to pick up a crucial seat in a state where they are outnumbered by Democrats 2-1. Del. Kathy Szeliga, who represents parts of Baltimore and Harford counties, emerged the winner in a crowded Republican field.
“Governor Hogan’s successes and support in Maryland, including with Democrats, prove that Marylanders like the change he’s bringing to our state, and they will support a candidate, like me, who will bring that same real change to Washington,” Szeliga said in her victory speech.
Van Hollen and Edwards both represent House districts that include the suburbs of the nation’s capital.
Associated Press Writer Matthew Barakat in Hyattsville contributed to this report.