Barbara Mikulski

Barbara Ann Mikulski (born July 20, 1936) is an American politician of the Democratic Party, and the senior Senator from the state of Maryland. She is Maryland's first female senator. She is currently the most senior female Senator, having served since 1987. She received 1,504,691 votes in her 2004 reelection campaign, the largest number of votes to date for a candidate in Maryland.

Early life and activism

The great-granddaughter of Polish immigrants who owned a local bakery, Barbara is the oldest of three daughters of Christine Kutz and William Mikulski. She was born and raised in historic and ethnically diverse East Baltimore. During her high school years at the Institute of Notre Dame, she worked in her parents' grocery store, delivering groceries to seniors in her neighborhood who were unable to leave their homes.

After graduating from Mount Saint Agnes College (now a part of the Loyola College in Maryland), she obtained her masters degree in social work (MSW) from the University of Maryland School of Social Work. She worked as a social worker for Catholic charities and Baltimore's Department of Social Services, helping at-risk children and educating seniors about the Medicare program. Mikulski became an activist social worker when she heard about plans to build a 16-lane highway through Baltimore's Fells Point neighborhood. She helped organize communities on both sides of the city and stopped the construction of the road, saving Fells Point and Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Mikulski received her first national attention in 1970 as a result of a conference at Catholic University regarding “Ethnic Americans” convened by Msgr. Geno Baroni. Her message became one of the major documents of the “ethnic movement”.

"America is not a melting pot", Mikulski said. "It is a sizzling cauldron for the ethnic American who feels that he has been politically courted and legally extorted by both government and private enterprise. The ethnic American is sick of being stereotyped as a racist and dullard by phony white liberals, pseudo black militants and patronizing bureaucrats. He pays the bill for every major government program and gets nothing or little in the way of return. Tricked by the political rhetoric of the illusionary funding for black-oriented social programs, he turns his anger to race — when he himself is the victim of class prejudice."

"[He] has worked hard all his life to become a 'good American;' he and his sons have fought on every battlefield — then he is made fun of because he likes the flag. The ethnic American is overtaxed and underserved at every level of government. He does not have fancy lawyers or expensive lobbyists getting him tax breaks on his income. Being a home owner, he shoulders the rising property taxes — the major revenue source for the municipalities in which he lives. Yet he enjoys very little from these unfair and burdensome levies."

... "[T]he ethnic American also feels unappreciated for the contribution he makes to society. He resents the way the working class is looked down upon. In many instances he is treated like the machine he operates or the pencil he pushes. He is tired of being treated like an object of production. The public and private institutions have made him frustrated by their lack of response to his needs. At present he feels powerless in his daily dealings with and efforts to change them. Unfortunately, because of old prejudices and new fears, anger is generated against other minority groups rather than those who have power. What is needed is an alliance of white and black, white collar, blue collar and no collar based on mutual need, interdependence and respect, an alliance to develop the strategy for new kinds of community organization and political participation.

Mikulski's activism led to a seat on the Baltimore City Council in 1971.

Congressional career

In 1974 she ran for the U.S. Senate for the first time, but was defeated by the Republican incumbent, Charles Mathias, Jr. It turned out to be the only time that Mikulski ever lost an election.

In 1976, she won the Democratic nomination for the 3rd Congressional District of Maryland after the incumbent, Paul Sarbanes, made a successful run for the Senate. She was easily elected in November, winning 76% of the vote. She was re-elected four more times, never facing substantive opposition in the heavily Democratic district.

In 1986 Mikulski announced her retirement from politics. At the time of this announcement, it was expected that then-Governor Harry Hughes would run for the seat being vacated by retiring Senator Mathias. However, Hughes became caught up in the aftermath of the Maryland savings and loan crisis. He lost popularity with voters, opening the door for Mikulski's bid for the Senate. During the campaign, her opponent, Linda Chavez, made comments that Mikulski's supporters interpreted as an attempt to draw attention to the issue of Mikulski's sexual orientation. Mikulski never directly responded to the issue and eventually won the race with 61 percent of the vote. She was the first female Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in her own right (not appointed or filling a seat of a deceased husband). Mikulski is one of 11 senators to vote against both the 1991 and 2002 resolutions authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

Mikulski, popularly known as "Senator Barb," was re-elected with large majorities in 1992, 1998 and 2004. Her next reelection will be in 2010. Many Democrats vow to oppose her reelection based on her vote in favor of the FISA bill, which granted immunity to the telecom companies who cooperated with the warrentless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

Committee assignments

As of April 2007, Mikulski serves on the following Senate committees:

Senate action

Senator Mikulski has taken a strong stance against predatory lending, even going so far as to take personal action against Fairbanks Capital, which is claimed to have illegally foreclosed on over 100 homes in Maryland. Senator Mikulski is also a strong supporter of NASA and expanding space exploration.

In 2007, Mikulski endorsed her colleague, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) for the President of the United States; Mikulski noted the leadership qualities within Clinton and cited her desire to break the "glass ceiling" by electing the first woman President.

Important Votes

In 2008, Mikulski voted in favor of the FISA bill, allowing the telecom companies to achieve immunity for the warrantless wiretapping cooperation they provided.

On October 1st, 2008, Mikulski voted in favor of HR1424, the Senate version of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, providing a $700 billion bail out to the United States financial market.

Election history

Year Office Election Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1976 Congress, MD 3rd district General

Barbara Mikulski Democratic 143,461 74.59% Samuel Culotta Republican 36,447 25.41%
1978 Congress, MD 3rd district General

Barbara Mikulski Democratic 91,189 100% Unopposed
1980 Congress, MD 3rd district General

Barbara Mikulski Democratic 134,367 76.13% Russell Schaffer Republican 32,074 23.87%
1982 Congress, MD 3rd district General

Barbara Mikulski Democratic 110,042 74.2% Robert Scherr Republican 38,259 25.8%
1984 Congress, MD 3rd district General

Barbara Mikulski Democratic 133,189 68.21% Ross Pierpont Republican 59,493 30.47%
1986 MD Senator, Class 3 General

Barbara Mikulski Democratic 675,225 60.69% Linda Chavez Republican 437,411 39.31%
1992 MD Senator, Class 3 General

Barbara Mikulski Democratic 1,307,610 71% Alan Keyes Republican 533,688 28.98%
1998 MD Senator, Class 3 General

Barbara Mikulski Democratic 1,062,810 70.5% Ross Pierpont Republican 444,637 29.5%
2004 MD Senator, Class 3 General

Barbara Mikulski Democratic 1,504,691 64.77% E. J. Pipkin Republican 783,055 33.71%


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