By Sean Smith and Julie Podczaski
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writers
KENSINGTON – U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-8th District, won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate Tuesday, defeating fellow congressperson Donna Edwards by about 15 percentage points.
The race, which experts had been predicting would go down to the wire, turned into a landslide with Van Hollen taking home 54 percent of votes while Edwards only captured 39 percent.
“I was a little surprised because they kept saying it was a close race,” said Deb Jung, a Howard County resident and long-time friend of Van Hollen.
During his victory speech, Van Hollen took a moment to step outside the victory and focus on what the future holds in Congress.
He made it clear to a very boisterous crowd of supporters that he, along with the rest of the Democrats in Congress, would make a point to oust Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as the chamber’s majority leader. He also took a direct shot at Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump.
“You [Trump] may have won the Maryland Republican primary,” Van Hollen said. “But that’s not who we are in Maryland.”
Van Hollen will now face off against Republican Kathy Szeliga to see who will replace long-time Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who announced her retirement last year. Van Hollen is favored to win the November election in heavily Democratic Maryland.
A key factor in deciding the race was Van Hollen’s proven track record for following through on promises made to his constituents, supporters said. Known for being progressive, Van Hollen’s ability to get several bills through during his time in the House of Representatives separated him from Edwards, who mirrors him on many stances.
“He and Donna Edwards overlap on a lot of issues,” said Zachary Yazdani, an 18-year-old campaign intern. “I think he [Van Hollen] just has a better record of getting things done.”
Before the results came out, Yazdani and several other campaign interns were among many in attendance who were hoping for a positive outcome.
“We’re hoping he’s our next U.S. Senator,” said Olivia Spaccasi, also a campaign intern.
The festivities were pushed back for over an hour as several precincts in Baltimore City changed their closing time from 8 to 9 p.m., a move successfully sought by the Edwards camp. Votes within city borders were crucial for both candidates as Baltimore became a huge battleground over the course of the campaign.
Several officials from around the state, including Baltimore County Councilman Julian Jones, were in attendance during the party – apoint that Van Hollen pointed outduring his speech.
“People who understand at the end of the day regardless of whether we’re at the county level, the state level or national level, we all serve the same constituents who all expect us to get the work done for them,” Van Hollen said.
With DJ Khaled’s famous hit “All I do is Win” playing in the background, another long-time friend of Van Hollen’s, Mary Jeffers, was ecstatic immediately following the results announcement.
“There were times where I felt like yes, Maryland needs him in the Senate, but really the Senate needs him in the Senate,” Jeffers said. “He’s that important in American politics.”
Van Hollen wrapped up the party by stating the next goal of his campaign is to help the Democrats win the general election and take back control of Congress.