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WYPR's Senior News Analyst opines on recent Maryland news.

Smith: Is Barbara Mikulski Really Leaving The Political Life?

Senator Barbara Mikulski is stepping down, ending a lifetime of political involvement - but us she really?

After helping a dozen or so women win seats in the U.S. Senate, anyone but Baltimore’s own Barbara Mikulski might be ready to rest on her laurels.  By now, most of us know the details: She was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in her own right – not riding her senator/husband’s coattails. When she arrived in the senate, she had one woman colleague, Nancy Kasabaum. Women couldn’t wear pant suits on the Senate floor. Mikulski helped changed the rules. And then she went to work finding more colleagues. Republicans as well as Democrats profited from the work she did. More and more women saw they could do what she did. Young women undoubtedly thought there might be breakthroughs in their career fields. As President Obama said this week. Mikulski opened doors for women around the world.

Spectacular. Off the charts. Beyond anyone’s dreams.   But what if there was one more laurel to take into retirement?  What if she spent the last year of her legislative life helping elect Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the nation’s first woman president? Would that be the ultimate achievement for a woman who has devoted her life to making women full partners in the life of this country?

So what about this explanation: If she’s not running for her own re-election, she could be an important lieutenant or even a field general in the Clinton campaign. She knows people around the country. She’s done this sort of barnstorming before. And what then? If Clinton is elected, maybe she would do a turn as a cabinet secretary. Or maybe she would then come back to Baltimore.

We’d need a brass band.