ROCKVILLE -- In the first campaign event of Maryland's 2016 Senate contest, Rep. Chris Van Hollen secured the endorsement of every member of the Montgomery County Council on Monday, the latest indication the seven-term congressman is moving quickly to lock up support.
The Democratic lawmaker, who has enjoyed a strong base of support in Montgomery, said the county has been a national leader on a number of progressive issues, such as raising the minimum wage, transit and approving new campaign finance reform rules.
Van Hollen, 56, focused much of his first address on the campaign trail on Republicans in Congress, including the upcoming fight over the federal budget. Van Hollen is the top-ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
"What's been happening in Congress -- in the House and the Senate? Instead of advancing important causes for the people of Maryland and the country, they've been trying to roll them back," said Van Hollen, who is running for the seat that will be left open by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's retirement in 2017. "It's been an entirely negative agenda."
Van Hollen nodded to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, calling her a partner for Montgomery County, and said he looked forward to campaigning in "all parts of the state."
The event came hours after several Democratic sources confirmed Rep. Donna F. Edwards is planning to announce that she is also taking steps toward running for the seat. Edwards, a Prince George's County lawmaker, appears to have support from several progressive groups that launched an effort last week to draft her for the contest.
Asked about some of the progressive support Edwards has already received, Van Hollen pointed to those who have endorsed him. "If you look at my record, starting in the state of Maryland, it's one of being an effective progressive," he said.
In addition to the nine-member council, Van Hollen had already secured an endorsement from Montgomery County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.