Donna Edwards became the state's first black woman to be elected to Congress after easily defeating Republican Peter James last night in a special election for the vacant 4th District seat.
With 74 percent of the precincts reporting by 10 p.m., Edwards had captured 79 percent of the vote.
Edwards, an activist and lawyer, will serve out the remainder of former Rep. Albert R. Wynn's term. Wynn, who lost to Edwards in the February primary, left office May 31 to join a powerful lobbying group, leading to last night's election. She will serve the rest of the year.
"It really didn't hit us about the element of history, but what it says is that we're ready for change and for people who represent all of us," said Edwards, 49.
"The fault lines we draw among races, counties, really don't matter," she said.
It is a victory political observers say will give the Prince George's County Democrat a jump on other incoming legislators if she beats James again in the general election in November.
Edwards, running a populist, anti-war campaign that has drawn support from national liberal groups, will be the prohibitive favorite in a district in which Democrats outnumber Republicans 5-to-1.
"I never want to take any election for granted," Edwards said. "I'll continue to be out meeting and speaking with people in the 4th District. We're going to do what it takes to win."
Maryland Democratic leaders did not want the seat open for six months and rushed through a plan for the special election for the district, which includes parts of Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Edwards will have the status of incumbency for the November election.
The special election had an estimated bill of $1.3 million, mostly for setting up polling stations and programming ballots.