Maryland Voters to Decide Sen. Primary

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Maryland voters are selecting nominees for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Barbara Mikulski for 30 years, including a Democratic contest that has become a polarizing battle over race and gender.

U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards — who could become just the second black woman elected to the Senate — have been locked in a heated contest to replace the retiring Mikulski. Baltimore and its majority black population have become key prizes in the primary, which has drawn unusual interest from top Democrats who typically don't weigh in this early.

Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping to ride GOP Gov. Larry Hogan's popularity in November to pick up a crucial seat in a state where they are outnumbered by Democrats 2-1. The Republican field is crowded and includes Del. Kathy Szeliga and Richard Douglas, a former Defense Department appointee in the George W. Bush administration. Chrys Kefalas, who worked in former Gov. Robert Ehrlich's administration, also is running.

Van Hollen has been running on his record as a pragmatic progressive who is able to reach across the political aisle to get things done. Edwards has campaigned as a candidate more committed to holding liberal principals without settling for political deals. Both candidates represent House districts that include the suburbs of the nation's capital. Van Hollen has been a congressman since 2003, and Edwards has been if office since 2008.

Van Hollen, 57, won his congressional seat in 2002, defeating incumbent Republican Rep. Connie Morella. Before that, he served 12 years as a state legislator.

Edwards, 57, was a lawyer and liberal activist before defeating incumbent Rep. Al Wynn in the 2008 primary on the way to becoming the first black woman to win election to Congress in Maryland.

(KA)