WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland intends to join the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, hoping to become the first African-American elected to the Senate from her state and setting up a party showdown between liberals and the establishment, according to officials familiar with her plans.
Edwards would become the second member of the state's House delegation to announce her intentions to run for the Senate. Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen joined the race last week.
No Republican has yet stepped forward to run for the seat in the Democratic state.
A formal announcement is expected in the near future by Edwards, 56 and serving her fourth full term in the House. The officials who disclosed her plans did so on condition of anonymity because the officials were not authorized to speak on the record before a formal announcement.
Edwards and Van Hollen both represent portions of the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Her district includes Prince George's County and has an African-American majority. Van Hollen represents adjoining Montgomery County, which is heavily white.
Edwards is expected to have strong support among progressives, while Van Hollen, with close ties to the leadership, is a prominent party spokesman in the House on economic issues.
At an appearance in Rockville, Maryland, Van Hollen highlighted endorsements from Montgomery County Council members and Isiah Leggett, the chief executive of the Maryland's largest county, and said he expects a healthy debate in what could be a crowded Democratic primary.
"I welcome the opportunity to have a discussion around the state with anybody who chooses to throw their hat into the ring and be a part of this great Democratic process," the congressman said.
A number of other Democrats also are exploring the race.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake described herself as a Washington outsider.
"As people continue to be frustrated with the inaction in Congress, a track record like mine makes me an attractive candidate, but I have to really think about how best to serve Baltimore and that's where I just haven't made up my mind yet," she told reporters after a speech Monday.
Mikulski first won her seat in 1986, and her retirement creates a rare open Senate seat in her state. She became the second Senate Democrat to announce she will step down. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has also said she intends to retire at the end of her term.
Among Republicans, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., will run for governor instead of seeking a third Senate term.
Republicans hold 54 seats in the Senate. Democrats and independents aligned with them control 46, meaning they must gain at least five in next year's elections to be assured of winning a majority.
Associated Press writers Brian Witte in Annapolis and Juliet Linderman in Baltimore contributed to this story.