Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin talk about election results outside Jimmy's Restaurant in Fells Point. (Michael Dresser/Baltimore Sun video)
On the morning after the candidates to become her replacement were established, Sen. Barbara Mikulski was content with her decision to retire at the end of her current term.
Speaking in Baltimore following Tuesday's primary election, Mikulski said she fully supports U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, even though a victory by the Montgomery County Democrat over Republican nominee Kathy Szeliga could leave the Maryland congressional delegation without a woman member for the first time in 40 years.
"It's always been first and foremost the agenda," Mikulski said. "Chris Van Hollen and I have exactly the same agenda."
Van Hollen defeated the Maryland delegation's only incumbent female House member, Donna Edwards, to win the primary.
Mikulski, retiring after four decades in Congress, called Van Hollen a hard worker. She said, however, that Democrats won't take victory in his race against Szeliga for granted.
"I'm comfortable not only handing over the reins but riding on the buckboard to help him to get elected," said Mikulski, who remained neutral in the primary.
Mikulski and fellow Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin held a news conference outside Jimmy's Restaurant in Fells Point Wednesday morning to call for unity and to pledge to work for the election in November of the party's other nominees — especially Van Hollen and state Sen. Catherine Pugh, who won Tuesday's primary in the race for Baltimore's mayor.
Mikulski and Cardin also welcomed Hillary Clinton's victory in Maryland while expressing confidence that supporters of Bernie Sanders will close ranks around their party's presumptive nominee.
Mikulski admitted that watching the returns come in brought home the reality that she'll be leaving Congress.
"There was a lot of nostalgia there — remembering how I started," she said.
But Mikulski expressed no regret about her decision to end her historic career as the longest-serving woman in the U.S. Senate.
"It's a new day — time for new leadership," she said.
Cardin, who will become the state's senior senator next year, predicted that Sanders' supporters would coalesce around Clinton after her victories in Maryland and three other states made her nomination all but inevitable.
"I don't think that's a problem at all," Cardin said. "We know there's not much of a difference on the issues between our two candidates."