The speculation is over.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8th) announced Friday evening that he will not run for the U.S. Senate to replace longtime Sen. Ben Cardin (D) and plans to seek reelection to the House of Representatives next year.
Raskin said in a more than 1,000-word statement that he wants to continue preserving democracy against threats from former President Trump and his allies. Raskin helped lead the special Jan. 6, 2021 House committee investigations after the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“The times have found us, as Tom Paine said, and there is no escaping the responsibility we have in office now not just to the specific people and communities we represent but to the entire country,” Raskin wrote.
“At this moment, 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,” he said. “And to mobilize thousands of Democracy Summer Fellows and raise millions of dollars and everyone’s spirit to fortify and build up Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.”
Raskin said that under normal circumstances, he’d be more inclined to risk his leadership post in the House and try for the Senate seat that Cardin is giving up after three terms. But he said the prospect of helping Democrats regain the House majority in 2024 — and the likelihood that he’d become chair of the House Oversight Committee under those circumstances — compelled him to stay put.
“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,” he said. “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. We are still in the fight of our lives, the fight for democracy and freedom and for the survival of humanity.”
Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said he didn’t believe Raskin would enter the Senate race, in part because he just completed an intensive six-month treatment for cancer.
“Just from the human factor, he’s just getting through pretty serious cancer treatment. Then to jump right into high stakes [Senate] campaign needing to raise a lot of money,” Eberly said in an interview. “But I think the bigger issue is he has earned a position of respect in the House. He is in line for an important committee chairmanship should Democrats take the House back after the next election. He’d have to give all that up just to run for the chance of being the nominee of the Democratic Party.”
Raskin’s decision leaves Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and U.S. Rep. David Trone as the top-tier contenders in the Democratic Senate primary for now, though Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando and others are also seeking the nomination.
Alsobrooks recently announced that she had raised $1.73 million for the contest so far, while the wealthy Trone is spending liberally from his own pocket on ads and political mailers. Campaign finance reports for the second quarter of the year are due to be filed with the Federal Election Commission on July 15, and should provide a somewhat clearer picture of the financial state of the primary race — though Trone’s unlimited ability to self-fund skews the fundraising playing field to an extent.
Raskin, a progressive former constitutional law professor who spent a decade in the Maryland Senate before his election to the House in 2016, has become a national Democratic icon since he led Trump’s second impeachment following the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He’s become a celebrity among party activists and a fundraising magnet, and would have been a formidable contender had he entered the Senate primary.
Now, the early primary dynamic suggests the contest will come down to Alsobrooks, who is racking up endorsements from a broad swath of political insiders while pressing her case to make history as Maryland’s first Black senator and only the third Black woman in U.S. history to serve in the chamber, and Trone, a wildly successful businessman who has made fighting the opioid crisis his top issue in Congress.
Alsobrooks’ endorsements from current and former elected officials suggest Democratic leaders are looking ahead, Eberly said.
“That just speaks to what the party sees as the future of their party, as opposed to the past of their party,” he said. “They look to Alsobrooks and think this is someone who has tremendous future potential even beyond just running for Senate. They’re making clear their investment.”
To have a chance of competing in the primary, Jawando, a charismatic and ambitious lawmaker, will have to make inroads with progressives around the state who might have naturally gravitated to Raskin, chip away at Alsobrooks’ perceived strength among Black voters, retain a strong segment of Montgomery County Democrats who have already supported him twice in countywide County Council elections, and show strong fundraising numbers.
Candidates offer praise and express confidence
All three candidates put out statements Friday night praising Raskin and offering their assessments of the primary contest.
Alsobrooks posted a message on her Twitter page Friday calling Raskin a “champion for Maryland and for democracy.”
“If elected to the Senate, I will be a partner with him to fight for all of our families, to ensure every corner of Maryland gets the resources it deserves, and to engage in the hard work of safeguarding our democracy,” she said.
Trone, who lost the 8th District Democratic primary to Raskin in 2016 before winning in the 6th, which takes in part of Montgomery County and most of Western Maryland, said he respected his colleague’s decision to stay out of the Senate contest.
“While there are multiple good candidates running, I am the only progressive in this race who has gotten bills over the finish line in Congress — delivering results on mental health, addiction treatment, medical research, criminal justice reform — and many other issues that impact people’s lives,” he said. “Saying what you want to do is the easy part of the job — actually getting things done requires hard work, and no one has or will outwork me or our campaign.”
And Jawando clearly seems some space for himself on the left wing of his party.
“I’ve known Jamie Raskin for over 15 years,” Jawando said. “He is a progressive champion, and the kind of person who displays the same courage and grace no matter what, whether he’s taking on Donald Trump or cancer. We are grateful for his service and all the service that is yet to come. “Now more than ever, it is clear that we need a progressive champion in the Senate. That’s exactly what I intend to be when I’m elected.”
Democrats are heavily favored to hold Cardin’s seat in November 2024. The only Republican running so far with any name recognition at all is Robin Ficker, the noisy Montgomery County anti-tax activist who has unsuccessfully sought office dozens of times since serving a single term in the House of Delegates from 1979 to 1983.
Raskin is expected to waltz to a fifth House term in 2024, but his decision to stay put is undoubtedly deflating the hearts of at least a dozen ambitious Montgomery County politicians, who imagined themselves replacing him in Congress.
While a fascinating race is emerging in both parties to replace Trone in the 6th District, and several Democrats are already not-so-subtly jockeying to replace Alsobrooks as Prince George’s executive — whether she’s elected to the Senate in 2024 or leaves office when her term ends in 2026 — the Maryland political scene will be a little tamer this election cycle with Raskin staying out of the Senate contest and no open-seat race to replace him.