Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, the studious liberal who became Maryland's longest-serving senator and who acted as quiet counsel to Democratic leaders through times of impeachment and scandal, announced yesterday that he will not run for reelection when his fifth term ends in January 2007.
"It was just the right time. We think we've served well and long and honorably," Sarbanes said in a surprise news conference overlooking Baltimore's Inner Harbor. "It was not my ambition to stay there until they carried me out."
Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes at news conference in Baltimore. "It was just the right time," he said of his decision to retire.
(Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
Paul S. Sarbanes|
Graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University.
Received an honors degree at Oxford University's Balliol College as a Rhodes scholar.
Graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School; married Christine Dunbar of Brighton, England.
Elected to represent Baltimore in the state House of Delegates, where he served on the Judiciary and the Ways and Means committees.
Won a seat in the House of Representatives, after defeating a 13-term incumbent and committee chairman in the Democratic primary.
Drew national attention as he introduced the first article of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon as a member of the House Judiciary Committee investigating the Watergate scandal.
Won a Senate seat, defeating one-term Republican J. Glenn Beall Jr. after beating former senator Joseph D. Tydings Jr. in the Democratic primary.
Helped lead the successful 22-day debate on the Senate floor to ratify the Panama Canal treaty, earning him the enmity of conservative groups.
Won reelection handily despite an orchestrated campaign against him by the National Conservative Political Action Committee.
Appointed to the committee investigating the Iran-contra scandal, where he criticized President Ronald Reagan for allowing a "junta in the White House."
Became the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Served as ranking Democrat on the Senate Whitewater Committee, where he argued sharply with Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) in the investigation into President Bill Clinton's real estate dealings and the suicide of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr.
Won passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act while serving as Banking Committee chairman. It places stricter rules on the accounting industry to guard against practices that contributed to Enron Corp.'s failure and other scandals.
In three decades in the Senate, Sarbanes, 72, earned a reputation for working behind the scenes on complex legislative puzzles, producing most notably a far-reaching 2002 law that brought more oversight to the corporate world after the Enron Corp. collapse.
In Maryland, his departure marks the political passing of a generation and cracks open a logjam of younger Democrats eager to succeed him in a state that will hold its first open Senate race in 20 years.
Within hours, a half-dozen politicians jockeyed for position while straining to defer attention to the senator. They included Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and NAACP president; at least five House Democrats -- Benjamin L. Cardin, Elijah E. Cummings, Chris Van Hollen, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Albert R. Wynn; and Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey. Among Republicans, speculation focused on Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and state Sen. E.J. Pipkin (Queen Anne's), as Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is preparing to seek reelection.
Sarbanes's announcement unofficially launched a wide-open season in Maryland politics, with both his seat and the governor's in contention in 2006. Democrats are bracing for an especially bruising gubernatorial primary between Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. Both said yesterday that their focus remains on Ehrlich, even as Sarbanes's departure creates another option.
"I will not seek his seat," O'Malley, who leads Duncan in early polls, said in a statement. "We are laying the groundwork to run for governor."
Duncan said: "The whole world's looking at it, but I'm not one of them. I'm focused on running for governor."
Some prominent Democrats suggested, however, that there will be pressure for one of them to run for the U.S. Senate. Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said Democrats could then unify around one candidate for governor: "It will become apparent to one of them who is the more popular person."
Ehrlich, asked if he would seek the Senate post, replied, "I love being governor." He did not rule out the possibility that Steele, the running mate whom he has touted as his would-be successor in 2010, would consider the race.
"The fact that his success would lead to speculation doesn't surprise me," Ehrlich said, acknowledging the short bench of GOP leaders and Democrats' long grip on power and 2-to-1 voter registration edge in Maryland. Asked what would happen if national Republicans urge a bid by Steele, Ehrlich said, "We'll talk about it in any event."
State GOP Chairman John M. Kane said a run by Steele was not likely. "He wants to run for governor in 2010," Kane said.
In Maryland, analysts predicted the beginning of a changing of the guard in state politics -- both in age and geography. Both U.S. Senate seats have been held by Baltimore politicians since 1987; and the senators, as well as the state's comptroller and the attorney general, are all older than 65.
"The political center of gravity in Maryland has shifted away from the city to the Washington suburbs and the Baltimore suburbs," said Matthew Crenson, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University.