Former Lt. Governor Anthony Brown

Some of Maryland’s top Democrats met to heal wounds and energize the party’s troops in advance of the upcoming Nov. 8 general election.

U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin (DMd.), along with U.S. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Maryland Democratic Party Chairman R. Bruce Poole were leaders of a unity rally on April 28 at the College Park Marriott and Convention Center. Mikulski, retiring after four decades serving in both houses of the U.S. Congress, thanked the 250 people at the rally for their support but said more work needs to be done.

“We’ve got a long road to victory in November,” she said. “I will say that we had a great voter turnout on Tuesday and it was a record for Maryland with 1.6 million voters. That was more than in 2012 and we did it with great candidates and volunteers.”

The defeat of Edwards was still on the minds of many people who attended the rally. Maryland Del. William Smith (D-District 20) likes Edwards but supported Van Hollen. “Chris represents me in the House of Representatives and he has done a good job,” Smith, of Silver Spring, Maryland, told the AFRO. “He was good with constituent services and he has accomplished a lot in the House. For me, it was a no-brainer.”

Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-District 7) who clinched the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate will compete with Van Hollen to replace Mikulski in November. Van Hollen defeated Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), 51-39 percent.

An NBC exit poll on April 26 revealed that nearly half of the voters in the primary were Black and that Edwards won 60 percent of that vote while Van Hollen had 35 percent. The same poll reported that Van Hollen won 70 percent of the White vote.

During his address at the rally, Van Hollen praised Edwards for “her Democratic values and priorities” and cautioned party members that his victory is not assured in November. “We cannot take a single vote for granted in the state of Maryland,” Van Hollen said. “My opponent is no Barbara Mikulski.”

Even though Democrats in Maryland hold a 2-1 voter registration advantage over the Republicans, the seat is not guaranteed to a Democratic successor. Yvette Lewis, a former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, understands that what happened to former Lt. Governor Anthony Brown in his bid for governor could happen to Van Hollen, too. “We were divided in 2014 and we lost,” Lewis said. “When we are together, we win and we need to make sure that what happened in 2014 never happens again.”

Brown, who has clinched the party nomination to get Edwards’ seat, was the only Black politician to address the rally. He asked some of his former opponents – former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, Maryland Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D-District 21), businessman Warren Christopher and activist Terrence Strait – to join him on the stage.

“Folks, this is unity,” Brown said pointing to his former rivals amid thunderous applause.

Maryland State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-District 20) addressed the rally and pointed out some of his opponents but they weren’t requested to join him on the stage.

Edwards didn’t attend the rally and received national attention for criticizing party leaders during her April 26 concession speech for not being racially inclusive regarding support for Blacks running for statewide offices. Mikulski said she spoke to Edwards earlier that day.

“Donna is hurting tonight,” the senator said. “She has a great voice and she will always be welcome at the Democratic table.”

Lewis said she won’t hold not attending the rally against Edwards. “I’m giving everybody a pass because some of us are grieving,” she said. “What is important is what will take place six months from now in the general election.”