Chris Van Hollen’s victory party last night took on a festive glow long before positive results were more than just exit polls and wishful thinking. It might well be called a moment of affirmation after a bruising campaign.
The Democratic race for Barbara Mikulski’s Senate seat had long been defined as a choice between the symbolic draw of replacing her with an African-American woman who has a compelling personal story--or choosing a white male with a far more impressive record. Thanks to what appeared to be a very strong turnout in Van Hollen’s congressional district, his record overcame the lure of picking Donna Edwards to bolster the slim ranks of Senate women.
He promised supporters at an election night rally he would follow Mikulski’s example of fighting for Marylanders.
“She understood that the job of a Maryland senator was, yes, to engage in the big battles at the national level,” Van Hollen said. “But she also understood you never forget the people back home in our neighborhoods and communities and deliver results on the ground.”
Diane Bongiorni, a former constituent of Van Hollen’s in Montgomery county, offered a story last night that was typical of many such tributes he received during this campaign.
“Two years ago when the Maryland Obamacare rollout was so horrible, I was actually very ill and needed an operation and I could not get my health insurance,” she recalled. “And I called Chris Van Hollen’s office.”
She said a Van Hollen aide bullied the Maryland people into giving her health insurance just in time for her to have open heart surgery.
But then she moved into Edwards’ Prince George’s County district. And now when she calls Edwards' office for service “nobody even returns my call.”
As Mikulski proved, sometimes it’s the small gestures that are the most appreciated.