After two months of soul-searching, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate. In an impassioned, thousand-word statement released Friday night, the progressive icon said he was forgoing a bid to replace outgoing Sen. Ben Cardin because he felt he could best serve the country from his current perch in the House.
“I believe the best way for me to make the greatest difference in American politics in 2024 and beyond is this: to run for reelection to the House of Representatives in Maryland’s extraordinary 8th District,” the former member of the Jan. 6 Committee wrote.
Raskin’s decision is likely to narrow the Maryland Senate race between Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Rep. David Trone, both of whom announced their bids in May. Since then, Alsobrooks has gained frontrunner status as she’s drawn high-profile endorsements and mounted an impressive first-quarter fundraising haul. She still faces a formidable challenge from Trone, who has already poured millions into the race and promises to keep going.
State politicos always expected Cardin’s retirement to spur a crowded field to succeed him. In Maryland, U.S. Senate seats don’t open often. Two of the state’s most recent former Senators—Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski—held their seats for 30 years. Cardin has held his seat since 2007, and Maryland’s other Senator, Chris Van Hollen, was elected in 2016 and isn’t expected to step down any time soon.
Passing on the rare opportunity was an agonizing choice for Raskin, 60, who’s long dreamed of becoming a Senator. Yet the former constitutional law professor, who served as the lead prosecutor on former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment, faced a complicated dilemma. He recently attained a major perch as the top Democrat on the powerful House Oversight Committee, making him first in line to become chair if his party wins back control of the chamber. For Raskin, that comes with a monumental prospect: If Trump returns to the White House, Raskin would lead the main House panel to conduct oversight on the new administration.
Raskin had personal reasons, too. He announced in the spring that his cancer was in remission after chemotherapy treatment following a lymphoma diagnosis in December. And while he’s back to working full speed, his body is still recovering. Since his illness, he’s often been seen wearing a bandana gifted by E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt.
At the same time, Raskin and his family are grieving Raskin’s son Tommy, who died by suicide on New Year’s Eve 2020. It’s a subject that he wrote about at length in his 2022 memoir Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy, which chronicled his grappling with the loss of his son while leading impeachment proceedings for Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
At this point in the campaign cycle, new candidates are unlikely to enter the race. Other than Alsobrooks and Trone, there’s Will Jawando, a Montgomery County Councilman, mounting a longshot bid.
Alsobrooks, who announced her campaign in May, is coming off a strong fundraising start. She raked in $1.7 million during the last filing period that ended June 30, according to her campaign. That’s more than some of the most prominent Democratic Senate candidates have raised in their first fundraising quarters in recent years, such as Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia ($1.5 million), Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia ($1.3 million), and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois ($1.2 million).
Some of the state’s most prominent Democrats have also been lining up behind her, including Reps. Steny Hoyer and Kweisi Mfume and Maryland Comptroller Brooke Lierman. With Raskin stepping aside, Alsobrooks is expected to announce more endorsements in the coming weeks, according to sources familiar with the matter.
But she will have to contend with Trone’s money. A wealthy businessman who founded the Total Wine and More retail chain, the three-term congressman has a history of bankrolling his campaigns. He’s already spent millions on television advertisements and has told associates he plans to invest as much as $50 million of his own money on the campaign, according to sources familiar with the matter.
It’s a tactic that hasn’t always worked. In 2016, Raskin defeated Trone in a three-way Democratic primary to replace Van Hollen when he vacated his House seat to run for Senate. Raskin raised and spent about $1 million compared to the roughly $17 million Trone injected from his own pocket. (Trone won a House seat in an adjacent Maryland district two years later.)
Alsobrooks may have historical winds at her back. She’s likely to attract national interest as a single mom and Black woman running at a time when there are no Black women in the Senate. There’s also no woman currently in Maryland’s Congressional delegation.
Since 2018, Alsobrooks has led the second largest county in Maryland but the one with the most Democratic voters. Maryland insiders suspect that will provide her home-turf advantage over her challengers in one of the most important jurisdictions. Prince George’s County proved decisive in the 2022 Democratic primaries, particularly in the race for governor, in which Wes Moore won the county by 16% over Tom Perez, enabling him to win statewide by just 2%.
She also won’t have to compete against a popular fellow Democrat who is beloved by progressives and would have been able to raise millions of dollars nationwide.
“If I had two political careers, I would gladly give one of them to the year-and-a-half campaign for the Senate, a prospect that remains alluring to me because of my profound love for our state and the incredible people who live here,” Raskin wrote. “I would even be open to restarting my political career as Senator #99 or 100 at the bottom of a new institution. But I have a different and more urgent calling right now and I cannot walk away from the center of this fight in the people’s House and in the country.”
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