BOWIE -- Strutting into her 1992 re-election bid yesterday, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., boasted of her efforts to keep federal dollars flowing to Maryland -- and vowed to reduce the number of federal dollars leaving the wallets of middle-class taxpayers.
During the first of six scheduled campaign kickoffs, the Baltimore lawmaker climbed atop the crowded bandwagon of middle-class tax relief.
"We see middle-class families taxed like the rich but disenfranchised like the poor," she said. "I'm convinced it's time to listen again to the middle class. You're my favorite endangered species."
Such a tax cut is needed to "get this economy moving again," said Ms. Mikulski, whose red dress and red signs seemed a reminder of the red ink of the economy. "It's time to cut your taxes -- to get more money into family checkbooks," she said, while addressing several dozen students, faculty and local officials at Bowie State University.
Ms. Mikulski offered no specifics on her proposed middle-class relief measure. A tax cut for the middle class already has been embraced by more than a half-dozen of her Democratic and Republican colleagues, who hope to kick-start the economy and quiet voters' anti-tax grumbles.
Instead, the 55-year-old former social worker devoted much of her address to spending tax money.
A member of the powerful Appropriations Committee -- and a subcommittee chairman -- Ms. Mikulski highlighted her efforts to keep jobs at the U.S. Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, boost projects at the Goddard Space Flight Center and create a high-speed train between Baltimore and Washington.
The Democratic senator, who opposed sending U.S. troops to Kuwait, also tried to capitalize on the criticism that the Bush administration has paid scant attention to the domestic scene. "I know we won the war in the desert," she declared. "I want to make sure we win the war for America's future."
But her only mention of Mr. Bush came in the form of a compliment, for saying this week he would back a compromise civil rights bill. It is legislation, Ms. Mikulski told the mostly black audience, "that people like you and I have been working on for a long, long time."
Today on the banks of Marley Creek she will take her share of credit for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup and, later, for defense jobs at the Grumman Plant in Salisbury. Tomorrow she will officially kick off the 1992 campaign during an afternoon rally at Dundalk's Steelworkers Hall.
The bread-and-butter Democrat rose from the Baltimore City Council to the U.S. House before she won the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. in 1986. "It's a job I worked hard for and I love it," she told the crowd. "I ask you for your help; I hope you'll send me back."
Two Republican candidates already have announced against Ms. Mikulski: Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly and Stuart Hopkins, a Caroline County consultant on issues related to the disabled. Another possible candidate is Alan L. Keyes, the GOP nominee who lost to Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes in 1986.
Kevin Igoe, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, may enter the race.
But political consultants place Ms. Mikulski in their safe category. Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Political Report, a Washington newsletter, said the senator has combined strong support from blue-collar workers and suburban liberals alike to create a "nice political niche."