America received a surprising and sad announcement on Monday morning: Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) — the longest serving female senator in American history — will not seek reelection in 2017 when her fifth consecutive term comes to a close. Mikulski, 78, a trained social worker, joined the House of Representatives in 1976, where she remained until being elected to the Senate in 1986. She’s been a fixture there ever since.
Over the years, Mikulski built a strong reputation as a bipartisan politician able to find compromise across party lines. She’s been a trailblazer since the beginning, and quickly became a role model for women in government. Mikulski rose through the ranks of the Senate Appropriations Committee, eventually becoming its chair until Democrats fell back into the minority, and hers was a consistent liberal vote along financial and social lines.
But, while she will be stepping away from her elected post, Mikulski is doing it with the public in mind. In her retirement announcement at a press conference Monday morning, she said of the campaign process: “I had to ask myself this question: Am I campaigning for me, or am I campaigning for my constituents? Am I raising money or raising hell?" From the looks of things, she’s choosing to raise hell by focusing on the public for the next two years instead of fundraising.
Honorable as the reason may be, it’s going to be a sad day when Senator Mikulski steps down. At the Democratic National Convention in 2012, she said, "I will always stand up and fight to end discrimination of any kind, anywhere in the United States of America. We must say no to hate crimes, racial profiling, racial redlining, and racial sidelining. And, we must say yes to equal work for equal pay and equal access to opportunity and protection under the law." What’s more: She embodied that statement every day of her career.