BARBARA ANN Mikulski knows the virtue of a good quip. She is the best one-line comic in the U.S. Senate. Humor has helped Ms. Mikulski in her campaigns and political dealings. But so have her studious approaches to issues, her determination to succeed through compromise and her ability to identify with working people as well as business leaders.
She faces a modest challenge this time. Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont, the 81-year-old Republican warhorse, has been wheeled out again to take on a dominant Democrat. He stands little chance, but give him credit: Where would the Maryland GOP be without such people who are willing to undertake suicide missions for the good of the party?
In this campaign, Ms. Mikulski, 62, touts her efforts to curtail dangerous shipbreaking practices condoned by the U.S. Navy and her efforts to reform and expedite drug-approval procedures by the Food and Drug Administration.
She has also been at the forefront of efforts to resist schemes to privatize the Social Security system. Congress must come to grips with the long-term funding dilemma that faces both Social Security and the huge Medicare program. We expect Ms. Mikulski will play a major role in reaching a consensus.
Health care has been a focus of her efforts, especially the neglected medical needs of women as well as patients' rights. The senator also has been one of the loudest voices favoring expanded federal medical research.
Ms. Mikulski usually finds a way to link her national objectives with local goals. For instance, she is a gung-ho supporter of the space program, which has meant added dollars -- and job security -- for space-related installations in Greenbelt and at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She also is a relentless campaigner for jobs for her city and state. She is deeply involved in negotiations with General Motors over the fate of GM's Broening Highway plant and its 3,500 workers.
There have been times when Ms. Mikulski's voice has been too partisan or quick to play to voter emotions. For instance, when Dundalk and Essex residents were enflamed over a program to move poor families to better housing in the suburbs -- Ms. Mikulski, a longtime advocate of housing assistance -- led the effort to kill the program.
In the vast majority of cases, Ms. Mikulski has given Maryland outstanding representation during her 22 years in Congress. She has learned her way around the hallways of power and knows how to leverage her position for the benefit of her home state. Without hesitation, The Sun endorses Barbara Ann Mikulski for another six-year term in the U.S. Senate.
Pub Date: 10/25/98