This article, originally published at 7:45 p.m. July 7, 2023, was updated throughout at 10:30 a.m. July 8, 2023.
After mulling over his future for the past two months, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 8)—who has risen to national prominence since his initial election to the U.S. House in 2016—announced late Friday that he would not be a candidate in 2024 for the Senate seat now held by Democrat Ben Cardin, and would instead seek re-election to his current position.
“I am profoundly grateful …to those from all over Maryland who have strongly encouraged me to run for the U.S. Senate seat,” Raskin said in a lengthy statement. “If these were normal times, I am pretty sure that this is what I would be announcing now.”
But, he added: “…These are not normal times and we are still in the fight of our lives for democratic institutions, freedom and basic social progress in America as well as human rights and opportunity for people all over the world. … 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.”
The decision by Raskin–a Takoma Park resident whose district includes about three-quarters of Montgomery County voters–had been the subject of intense interest and speculation in recent weeks.
When Cardin announced in early May that he would not seek re-election to a fourth six-year term, three Democrats quickly jumped into the primary for the party’s nomination: U.S. Rep. David Trone of Potomac, Montgomery County Councilmember at-large Will Jawando of Silver Spring, and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
Raskin had just finished five months of chemotherapy for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma–from which he since has been pronounced by his physicians to be in remission, with a 90% prognosis of no relapse. In early May, he said he would take “a month or so” to reach a decision on whether to run for Senate, and later pushed that self-imposed deadline back to the Fourth of July holiday.
Raskin, a professor of constitutional law at American University for nearly three decades, was elected to the Maryland Senate in 2006 and to the U.S. House in 2016, beating out Jawando and Trone in the primary that year. He has since achieved national visibility as the lead House manager in the second impeachment trial of Republican former President Donald Trump in 2021, and later as a member of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.
Much of the more than 1,100-word statement that Raskin issued Friday to explain his decision on the Senate race was an unrelenting verbal assault aimed at the former president.
“Donald Trump and the dangerous forces of authoritarianism he commands have no declared policy agenda other than exacting revenge against his enemies,” Raskin declared. “…Trump has proven himself time and again willing to lie, cheat, and steal elections–to fabricate votes and incite violence against the Union in order to have his way. Trump and his cult followers must be stopped in their political tracks.”
Raskin’s decision to stay in the House rather than run for Senate all but assures his re-election to a fifth two-year term in his overwhelmingly Democratic 8th District seat. If the Democrats retake the House majority in 2024, Raskin—now ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee—would be in line to chair that high-profile panel.
If he had run for Senate, he would have been forced to relinquish his House seat, along with the possibility of his ascension to a full committee chairmanship—a consideration that he indicated in his statement was a key factor in his choice to forgo a Senate bid.
By the same token, Raskin–who turned 60 late last year–was arguably looking at his final opportunity to move to the Senate, and the prospect of utilizing a high-profile seat in that chamber to promote his brand of progressive politics. In recent years, he has forged a close friendship with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leader of the progressive wing of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Whoever emerges as the Democratic Senate nominee in next May’s primary will be the overwhelming favorite in the November general election, unless national Republicans can persuade former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan—who, to date, has shown little interest in a Senate seat—to run.
Raskin’s decision to stay out of the Senate race is likely to bolster the view among many political insiders that it is Alsobrooks’ contest to lose. A former Prince George’s County state’s attorney who is beginning her second term as county executive, Alsobrooks starts the 2024 Democratic Senate primary armed with several high-profile endorsements and some demographic advantages.
Alsobrooks–who would be Maryland’s first Black senator and only the third Black female senator in U.S. history—is running in a state in which an estimated 40% of registered Democrats are Black. Her base in Prince George’s County includes the largest number of registered Democrats of any of Maryland’s 24 major jurisdictions.
Also benefiting Alsobrooks politically: There has not been a woman in Maryland’s congressional delegation (two senators and eight House members) since Democratic former Sen. Barbara Mikulski retired in 2016. Remedying this imbalance could prove a potent pitch to Democratic primary voters, an estimated 60% of whom are women.
The several dozen endorsements that Alsobrooks has racked up so far–among them two members of Congress and a couple of county executives—include several high-profile women: state Comptroller Brooke Lierman, veteran Montgomery County Del. Anne Kaiser, and Susie Turnbull, a Bethesda resident and former state Democratic chair who was the party’s 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor. (Other Montgomery County endorsements for Alsobrooks include former County Executive Ike Leggett and long-time State’s Attorney John McCarthy.)
Trone, enters the contest with a massive personal fortune—and has demonstrated a willingness to spend it since he first ran for Congress in 2016, finishing second to Raskin in the 8th District primary.
Co-owner of Total Wine & More, a nationwide chain of alcohol beverage retail outlets, Trone was first elected to the House in 2018 from the neighboring 6th District, which stretches from Montgomery County 200 miles west to the edge of the state’s Panhandle. He has spent a total of $43.5 million from his own pocket over four House campaigns, and has reportedly told supporters he is prepared to spend $50 million in personal funds to win the forthcoming Senate race.
While Federal Election Commission disclosure reports due out next week will provide a fuller picture of the amount and sources of the funds flowing into the contest, Trone launched a seven-figure TV ad and mail campaign around the state shortly after announcing his candidacy in May. The Alsobrooks campaign, in a memo this week obtained by Maryland Matters, claimed to have raised more than $1.7 million in the first seven weeks of her candidacy.
Alsobrooks’ endorsement of now-Gov. Wes Moore (D) in early 2022 gave the then-political novice a crucial boost in his bid for the office. It is unclear whether Moore will ultimately return the favor and endorse Alsobrooks in the 2024 Senate contest, but she is expected to tap into the national network that enabled Moore to top last year’s crowded Democratic gubernatorial field in terms of fundraising.
Jawando, a onetime congressional and White House staffer, had been widely expected to drop back and run for Raskin’s 8th District seat if Raskin had made a Senate bid. In a statement Friday evening, Jawando—who has positioned himself on the left end of the all-Democratic County Council—sought to pitch to the progressive electorate for whom Raskin would have had particular appeal in a Senate primary.
“I’ve known Jamie Raskin for over 15 years. He is a progressive champion…,” said Jawando, declaring, “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.”
Barring a major upset in next year’s May primary—which could propel him to be the state’s first Black senator—Jawando’s candidacy is viewed among many Democrats as an effort to enhance his visibility and stature in advance of the 2026 election. He is seen as being among several council members who may vie that year for the county executive’s slot currently held by Marc Elrich.
Jawando was but one of a number of Montgomery County elected officials who were eyeing a run for the 8th District if Raskin had vacated it in favor of a Senate run. According to multiple sources, among the Democrats passing the word that they would likely run for the House seat were Sen. Will Smith (Dist. 20), who occupies the state legislative seat formerly held by Raskin; Dels. Gabriel Acevero (Dist.39), Lorig Charkoudian (Dist. 20) and Jared Solomon (Dist. 18); and current County Council President Evan Glass of Silver Spring.