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United States Senate election in Maryland, 1986


United States Senate election in Maryland, 1986

United States Senate election in Maryland, 1986

November 3, 1986

Nominee Barbara Mikulski Linda Chavez
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 675,225 437,411
Percentage 60.7% 39.3%

U.S. Senator before election

Charles Mathias, Jr.

Elected U.S. Senator

Barbara Mikulski

The 1986 United States Senate election in Maryland was held on November 3, 1986. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Charles Mathias, Jr. decided to retire, instead of seeking a fourth term. Democratic nominee Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski defeated Reagan Administration official Linda Chavez for the open seat.


  • Democratic primary 1
    • Candidates 1.1
    • Results 1.2
  • Republican primary 2
    • Candidates 2.1
    • Results 2.2
  • General election 3
    • Candidates 3.1
    • Campaign 3.2
    • Results 3.3
  • References 4

Democratic primary



Democratic primary results[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Barbara A. Mikulski 307,876 49.50%
Democratic Michael D. Barnes 195,086 31.37%
Democratic Harry Hughes 88,908 14.30%
Democratic Debra Hanania Freeman 9,350 1.50%
Democratic Edward M. Olszewski 7,877 1.27%
Democratic A. Robert Kaufman 6,505 1.05%
Democratic Boyd E. Sweatt 3,580 0.58%
Democratic Leonard E. Trout, Jr. 2,742 0.44%
Totals 621,924 100%

Republican primary



Republican primary results[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Linda Chavez 100,888 73.07%
Republican Michael Schaefer 16,902 12.24%
Republican George Haley 5,808 4.21%
Republican Melvin Perkins 2,785 2.02%
Republican Nicholas T. Nonnenmacher 2,751 1.99%
Republican Richard Sullivan 2,328 1.69%
Republican Howard D. Greyber 1,678 1.22%
Republican Monroe Cornish 1,497 1.08%
Republican Herbert Stone Rosenberg 1,337 0.97%
Republican Horace Stuart Rich 1,199 0.87%
Republican Abraham H. Kalish 901 0.65%
Totals 138,074 100%

General election



Mathias announced his retirement from politics. At the time of this announcement, it was expected that then-Governor Harry Hughes would run for the seat being vacated by retiring Senator Mathias. However, Hughes became caught up in the aftermath of the Maryland savings and loan crisis. He lost popularity with voters, opening the door for Mikulski's bid for the Senate.

Chavez won the primary handily, defeating several Republican challengers. Later, she made comments that some Mikulski supporters interpreted as an attempt to draw attention to the issue of Mikulski's Washington Post reported that Chavez was directly implying that the never-married Mikulski was a lesbian. Chavez was accused of making Mikulski's sexual orientation a central issue of the political campaign. In defending her use of the phrase, Chavez stated the line "San Francisco Democrats" was a reference to Jeane Kirkpatrick's 1984 Republican National Convention "Blame America First" speech, in which Kirkpatrick coined the phrase "San Francisco Liberal.". The phrase "San Francisco liberal" was common at the time.

Mikulski never directly responded to the issue and eventually won the race with 61 percent of the vote. She was the first female Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in her own right (not appointed or filling a seat of a deceased husband).


United States Senate election in Maryland, 1986[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Barbara A. Mikulski 675,225 60.69% +26.85%
Republican Linda Chavez 437,411 39.31% -26.85%
Majority 237,814 21.37% -10.96%
Total votes 1,017,151 100%
Democratic gain from Republican Swing


  1. ^ a b "Maryland State Board of Elections". 2001-08-17. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  2. ^
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