Maryland Senate candidate Chrys Kefalas (Courtesy of the Chrys Kefalas campaign)

Chrysovalantis Kefalas on Monday announced he is forming an exploratory committee to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, becoming the first Republican in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D).

“We are in a position to make history and to make life better for everyone in Maryland,” Kefalas said. If elected, he would be the only openly gay Republican in Congress, and the first Republican to enter Congress as openly gay. Others have come out after serving in office for several terms.

Kefalas, 35, was a lawyer in the administration of former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), where, among other things, he advised on clemency decisions. He has since worked for the Justice Department and is now a speechwriter for the National Association of Manufacturers.

“I certainly have experience in making tough decisions that affect people’s lives,” Kefalas said. “I’m not someone who has a dearth of experience; I’ve actually shown leadership.”

Kefalas told his family and friends that he was gay in 2010, he said in a recent interview. A year later, he shared his personal story with the Maryland legislature and urged lawmakers to legalize gay marriage. The state did so in 2012 — with support from many Republicans, as Kefalas notes.

He said he wants to focus his campaign in large part on Baltimore and what he describes as a failure of Democratic leadership in the city. While Kefalas lives in the Washington area, he grew up in Baltimore, and his family has long been in the restaurant business there.

He said he would advocate for lower taxes and an end to mandatory sentencing minimums and would focus on early education and community services.

Kefalas faces long odds. He is running his first campaign for public office, with initial low name recognition. While no other Republican has entered the race, several have expressed interest, including Rep. Andy Harris and former lieutenant governor Michael Steele.

The winner of the Democratic primary — the announced contenders include Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen — will presumably have a strong advantage in the general election, since voters registered as Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 2 to 1.