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  • Maryland Elections '98

  •   Mikulski Seeks 3rd Senate Term

    By Daniel LeDuc
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, April 7, 1998; Page A08

    BALTIMORE, April 6—Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) kicked off her campaign today for a third term, with her political standing so high that leading Republicans are despairing of finding a well-known candidate to challenge her.

    Mikulski won reelection six years ago with 71 percent of the vote and already has raised $1.4 million for her campaign. She is likely to face one of four virtual unknowns in the Republican Party seeking the nomination to challenge her.

    "Today is really talking about the future," a confident-sounding Mikulski said during her announcement at Fells Point, Baltimore's trendy waterfront neighborhood. "A new century is coming. A new economy is being born. I want to make sure Baltimore, Maryland and the United States lead the way."

    The announcement here, just a few blocks from the home where Mikulski lived when she began her political career on the Baltimore City Council in 1971, was the beginning of a three-day tour of the state that today included Silver Spring and Landover and will end Wednesday with swings through the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland.

    The four GOP candidates are Finksburg physician Michael Gloth, Baltimore lawyer George W. Liebmann, Baltimore County contractor Thomas L. Scott and Columbia computer executive Kenneth L. Waymann. All are relatively unknown, and Republican Party leaders say they have had a difficult time finding a candidate with better name recognition to take on Mikulski.

    The four challengers have said that Mikulski has not provided good representation in the Senate, and Liebmann criticized her foreign policy stances, which included opposing the resolution authorizing U.S. forces to fight in the Gulf War in 1991. That was before Mikulski won reelection in 1992.

    While her own race may be less than anxiety-ridden, Mikulski's campaign for a third term could greatly influence the governor's race. As one of the state's most popular Democrats, Mikulski could help Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), who faces a difficult re-election bid, with a vigorous campaign effort.

    But Mikulski went out of her way to tell reporters that she was staying neutral in the Democratic primary for governor, saying that as a senator she must work with Glendening as well as his challengers, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and former Washington Redskins player and businessman Ray Schoenke.

    After the September primary, Mikulski said, "We're going to have a Team Maryland approach to make sure we have a Democratic governor, a Democratic attorney general and to keep Democrats in control of the State House."

    She was joined at her Fells Point announcement by Glendening, Baltimore City Council members and other Democratic politicians who assembled to bask in the shine of her popularity, hoping it rubs off on them as they face their own campaigns this year.

    "She's got a tough campaign. She's got a fight," joked Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D). But she turned serious when describing Mikulski's appeal: "People know her. They trust her."

    A former social worker who made her name in Baltimore nearly 30 years ago by leading opposition to a proposed super highway that would have wiped out Fells Point, Mikulski has endeared herself to many voters who see her as a scrapper who will fight for them.

    As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mikulski has been an advocate of the space program and worked on veterans' issues. She has been a major backer of AmeriCorps and a strong opponent of sexual harassment, demanding an investigation of sexual-harassment allegations at Aberdeen Proving Ground. In her announcement speech, she promised to work for new jobs in an evolving global economy, pledged to provide more teachers for schools and said she would work to protect Social Security and Medicare.

    "I like that she cares about everybody -- the poor person as well as the rich person," said Tyronne Ferguson, a laborer who belongs to the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 37 and was at the announcement.

    Despite her popularity, Mikulski said she would run a hard race. "I'm not taking anyone for granted -- especially the people," she told reporters after the announcement.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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