WASHINGTON -- Rep. Chris Van Hollen's campaign for Senate won the support of a powerful state lawmaker on Thursday, the first endorsement in the contest by an elected official from Baltimore.
Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore City Democrat and chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee in Annapolis, said she will back Van Hollen in the race instead of Rep. Donna F. Edwards of Prince George's County.
Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, and Edwards are both courting the support of elected officials, donors and voters in the Baltimore region, where both Democrats are less well known. They are running for the seat held by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who is retiring in 2017.
"For more than two decades, I've watched Chris take on the powerful special interests in Annapolis and Washington, and more importantly, I've seen how often he wins," McIntosh said in a statement.
McIntosh is an important endorsement for Van Hollen for several reasons. To begin with, she has long been close to Mikulski. Prior to winning her election to the House of Delegates in 1992, McIntosh served as Mikulski's campaign manager and state director.
The state's senior senator, who is retiring despite high popularity, has not taken a position in the race.
Second, McIntosh is among the highest-ranked women in state politics, and her decision to back Van Hollen could provide cover for other elected women to back Van Hollen.
Edwards frequently notes the historic importance her election would have in a chamber that hasn't counted a black woman among its ranks in more than 15 years. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois was the last African American woman elected to the Senate.
Moseley Braun, who served a single term from 1993 to 1999, has endorsed Edwards.
Finally, McIntosh's support for Van Hollen is the latest signal that Baltimore officials may be giving up hope that Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore will run for the seat. Cummings -- who is officially still considering the race -- has done little in recent weeks to demonstrate that he's getting in, despite wide popularity among Maryland Democrats.
Van Hollen has locked down support from many of the state's elected leaders, including the county executives of Prince George's and Montgomery counties and a bevy of state lawmakers throughout the state. Edwards, who has always run as an outsider candidate, has picked up support from national liberal groups such as Emily's List and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
"I've been honored to work hand-in-hand with leaders like Maggie here in Baltimore to ensure equal access to education, justice and good-paying jobs," Van Hollen said in a statement.