WASHINGTON–Rep. Chris Van Hollen told supporters in an email Wednesday that he would be running to fill retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s seat in 2016.
Van Hollen, D-Kensington, is the first candidate to enter the race and is considered an early favorite with a sizeable money advantage.
“I am writing to let you know that I have decided to run for the United States Senate from our great state of Maryland,” Van Hollen wrote in the email. “I am very much looking forward to the upcoming campaign and a healthy exchange of ideas.”
Van Hollen wrote that a more formal announcement would come later.
Van Hollen has nearly $1.7 million in cash on hand according to the Center for Responsive Politics, over $600,000 more than any other members of the Maryland congressional delegation.
Other delegation members have expressed some interest in running for the seat, including Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville; John Delaney, D-Potomac; and John Sarbanes, D-Towson.
Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, is also considering running and progressive groups, like Democracy for America, are trying to draft her into the race.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend have said they are considering running. Former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Rep. Elijah Cummings, former delegate and gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur and U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez are considered potential Democratic candidates.
Potential Republican candidates include Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino. Bongino ran as the Republican nominee against Sen. Ben Cardin in 2012 and lost.
By entering the race, Van Hollen gives up his 8th District House seat after 2016 because he cannot run for two offices at the same time.
The Democratic primary to replace Van Hollen could also be crowded. State Sen. Jamie Raskin has already expressed interest in running and a number of Montgomery County Council members are considered to be potential candidates.
“Congressman Van Hollen has been an extraordinarily diligent congressman and a strong progressive leader for our district,” Raskin said. “I am actively exploring [running for Van Hollen’s seat].”
He noted victories he’s helped win in the Senate, such as marriage equality and the repeal of the death penalty and said he could bring the qualities that helped secure those victories, to the House of Representatives.
Van Hollen has served in the House since 2002 and is the ranking Democratic member of the House Budget committee. He was previously a member of the House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate.
“I knew Chris Van Hollen as a dedicated member of the House of Delegates and Maryland Senate,” said Maryland Senate President Mike Miller. “People who know him in Congress have selected him to leadership positions. …And in my opinion he would be an outstanding senator.”
State Sen. Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, said he expects Van Hollen will meet with legislators in Annapolis on Friday.
“He’s a former state legislator, former state senator, and he is widely admired here in Annapolis,” Feldman said. “I have no doubt he will be a top-tier candidate for that seat.”
“I think it’s fantastic. I think he would be an outstanding senator and I support him 110 percent,” said state Sen. Richard Madaleno, Jr., D-Montgomery. “If you look at his record, he’s accomplished so much whether he’s been in the majority or the minority.”
Anjali Shastry and Lily Hua contributed to this article.