Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski is seeking a fourth-term re-election in 2004. Mikulski has represented Maryland on Capitol Hill for 27 years _ 18 as a senator _ and is the longest serving woman currently in the Senate.
Mikulski faces GOP opponent E.J. Pipkin, a millionaire state senator from the upper Eastern Shore. Pipkin has said he will mount a self-described underdog campaign against Mikulski, who has been enormously popular in Maryland, winning 71 percent of the vote in her last two elections. Political analysts say Pipkin only has a chance of winning if he raises or spends millions on his campaign.
Gov. Robert Ehrlich is Maryland's first Republican governor since 1968, when Spiro T. Agnew resigned to become U.S. vice president. Ehrlich, a former congressman, won the 2002 Gubernatorial race over Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
The Maryland economy, while outperforming the national economy, is not doing as well as expected when the current budget was put together last December. The state faces a $700 million gap between anticipated spending and revenues next year.
Democrats want to share some of the burden with corporations by crafting a corporate loophole bill. The Legislature passed a bill last April increasing business taxes by about $135 million, but the bill was vetoed by Ehrlich.
Economic growth has improved in the state the last few months, but officials are uncertain whether the growth trend will be sustained over the next year.
In the House races of 2002, liberal Republican incumbent Constance Morella lost to a liberal Democratic challenger, state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen. Democratic Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger won Ehrlich's seat.
Republican Michael Steele was elected lieutenant governor, becoming the first black candidate elected to statewide office in Maryland.