BALTIMORE — Republican Kathy Szeliga believes the candidate best suited for the US Senate seat left open by the retirement of the longest tenured female politician in US history is another strong Maryland woman.
After Szeliga won the Republican primary in April for the US Senate seat that’s been held by Democrat Barbara Mikulski since 1987, she’s been travelling the Old Line State and trying to reenergize the proverbial “Red Wave” of Republican support in a historical “blue state” that helped to elect Gov. Larry Hogan and flip a handful of delegate and state senate seats from blue to red in 2014.
Mikulski announced she would be retiring in 2015, and the announcement sparked off a slew of speculation and political maneuvering that saw Democrat Chris Van Hollen and Szeliga emerge from a huge pool of political wannabes and became the two chosen contenders from the traditional parties. Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers is also vying for Mikulski’s seat.
Despite the difference in political affiliation, Szeliga, who is a small business owner with strong ties to the Eastern Shore, says she would be honored to carry on Mikulski’s legacy.
“While we do disagree on some major political ideals, I admire many qualities about Barbara Mikulski,” said Szeliga. “I once said, ‘we should send the taller, younger Polish girl to Washington.’ But at the root of it, I think we share that blue collar work ethic.”
Szeliga, who is the current Minority Whip in Maryland and owns a successful construction business with her husband whom she met in Ocean City almost 40 years ago, believes her “Reagan-esque” approach to legislating in Maryland’s 7th and 8th districts as a delegate is what helped her rise to the top of a large field of Republican contenders during the primary. Szeliga says folks on the Eastern Shore will see many of her best qualities as a politician in her good friend Mary Beth Carozza, (R-District 38-C).
“I think the kind of people that we need are people that will roll up their sleeves and get to work,” said Szeliga. “People are sick of partisan politics at their worst. I love Mary Beth’s approach because she is hard-working and forward thinking and that’s what we need in Washington: people like Mary Beth and myself. The country is headed in the wrong direction and people are tired of the usual politicians like Chris Van Hollen. We need people that will run this country like a business.”
But polls indicate Szeliga may have a difficult hill to climb if she wants to continue the streak of having a woman representing Maryland in Washington since 1972 as Democrat Chris Van Hollen is heavily favored and leads current polls to win Mikulski’s seat.
“It’s important for Maryland to keep that legacy of having great female representation in Washington DC,” said Szeliga. “All we have to do is look back to 2014 when Governor Hogan won the election. The issues are the same, and we look at Governor Hogan’s approval rating in Maryland and we believe that the support is there. The poll we look at says people in Maryland know that (Republican) ideas work. If voters want to change Washington, they need to send new people to Washington and not just a guy like Chris Van Hollen who hasn’t figured out a way to fix things in his numerous terms in office.”
While Szeliga will likely win support in the largely “red” Eastern Shore region, pollsters say she may have a difficult time defeating Van Hollen.
“He raises money better than I do, but he’s been doing it for much longer,” said Szeliga. “That’s what career politicians do.”
Still, Szeliga says she holds a very special place in her heart for the Eastern Shore, especially Ocean City, where, as aforementioned, she met her husband.
“I sometimes talk to groups of students and I say, ‘have a great time in Ocean City, but be careful, I ended up coming back from OC with a husband.”
Szeliga hopes people will leave the polls in November after choosing the taller, younger, Polish girl to succeed the most iconic and tenured female politician in U.S. history.