Rep. Chris Van Hollen may not be the second coming of Barbara Mikulski — really, who could be? — but he has the right experience, values and passion to succeed her in the United States Senate. He excelled as a lawmaker in Annapolis, and he has continued to do so as a member of the House of Representatives whether in the majority or minority. We have full confidence that he would serve Maryland well in the Senate, and we give him our unqualified endorsement.
Like Senator Mikulski, Mr. Van Hollen has never shied away from a tough fight. In the Maryland legislature, he took on the National Rifle Association and won — securing passage of the nation's first mandatory trigger lock law. In Congress, he was a key player in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street regulation and college loan reform. He has become not only an effective Democratic spokesman on budget issues but also a dealmaker to keep the lights on in Washington — an issue of vital importance to Maryland's economy.
Mr. Van Hollen understands the nuances of issues ranging from the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo to the need to expand Baltimore's Howard Street rail tunnel. Even among veterans of Washington, few can match his depth of knowledge. That's been a crucial ingredient in his success. He's not the kind of politician who's just out to score invitations to appear on Meet the Press (though he's gotten plenty). He's the kind who is willing to do the kind of hard work that is the prerequisite to getting anything done in a highly partisan Congress.
The kind of legislation Mr. Van Hollen has pursued in the House and would make a priority in the Senate matches Maryland's values. He is deeply involved in environmental issues, from addressing climate change to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. He is one of the leaders of the effort to get secret money out of politics. He has worked to encourage other states to adopt their own versions of Maryland's life-saving handgun purchaser licensing law. He supports a higher federal minimum wage and equal pay for equal work.
Replacing Senator Mikulski means more than voting the way she would have. It means recognizing that you represent the entire state, not just those jurisdictions where you get most of your votes. It means working doggedly on behalf of your constituents and serving as something of a team captain among Maryland's elected officials to serve the state's interests. Mr. Van Hollen's record of solving problems for people whether they live in his district or not and the broad support he has from leaders across the state testify to his ability to fulfill those roles. He's not from Baltimore, but he does have family roots here and a record of working on issues that are important to the city, dating to his efforts to increase state funding for public schools while in the legislature.
His Republican opponent, Del. Kathy Szeliga, is the strongest Senate nominee Maryland's GOP has put forward since at least Michael Steele. Her experience as a working mother and small business owner who put herself through college at age 34 would allow her to provide a valuable perspective in the Senate. She has a gift for relating to her constituents and a common-sense approach to policy questions. Aside from her misplaced loyalty to her party's presidential nominee (a strategic blunder in deep blue Maryland, if nothing else), Ms. Szeliga has run a strong campaign.
But it's a big jump from the House of Delegates to the U.S. Senate, and Delegate Szeliga hasn't convinced us that she's ready to make it. Promising to scrap the Affordable Care Act except for the prohibition on denying coverage for those with pre-existing conditions isn't a viable policy, and changing the subject to a misleading diatribe about Maryland's so-called "rain tax" isn't a suitable response to the question of climate change.
There is no question that Mr. Van Hollen is ready to represent Maryland in the Senate. Whether his party takes control of that chamber or not, we expect him to quickly establish himself as a leading advocate on the issues Marylanders care most about. He may be a little bit taller and a little bit less Bawlmer than the Maryland political icon he's seeking to replace, but we have confidence that Barbara Mikulski's legacy will be well served in Chris Van Hollen's hands.