As soon as U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes announced in late October that he won’t seek reelection, cellphones in the political world lit up with texts and calls: Who might run for his seat?
Sarbanes is a Democrat serving his ninth term representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District. In its current form, it encompasses all of Howard County, a small bit of Carroll County and a large swath of northern and central Anne Arundel County. That area is full of talented politicians who might now be reconsidering their future plans in light of Sarbanes’ surprise announcement.
Lots of names were quickly floated after Sarbanes’ announcement, but the field has begun to take shape in the weeks since. The latest entrance into the race is state Sen. Clarence Lam, a Democrat currently representing parts of Howard and Anne Arundel counties in Annapolis.
Here’s a look at contenders as the race begins to shape up.
State Sen. Sarah Elfreth: The state senator from Annapolis launched her campaign for the seat on Nov. 4 at a waterfront park in Annapolis.
Elfreth said she’d work on issues ranging from ensuring federal investments come to Maryland to protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay and working to make childcare and prescription drugs more affordable. Though her home base is all the way at one end of the district, Elfreth said she planned “to listen, to learn and to show up” across all three counties in the district.
Elfreth said she, like many Americans, is tired of “chaos and toxicity” in Washington, D.C. So why would Elfreth want to join that? “Congress isn’t going to get any better unless good people run,” she said.
At her launch event, Elfreth was endorsed by several Democratic women, including state Sen. Dawn Gile, who had considered a run for the seat herself.
Del. Vanessa Atterbeary: The lawyer and lawmaker was the first to say that she’s planning to run.
“I am confident that I will be in the race,” she said the day after Sarbanes’ announcement. Born and raised in Howard County, “I’m in the heart of the district in the heart of the state,” Atterbeary said.
If elected, she’d continue her focus on issues such as gun violence prevention and policies that support women and families. She also was one of the chief authors of the legislation that laid out Maryland’s new legal cannabis industry.
“I’ve been a fighter in Annapolis for causes I’ve championed and I would absolutely bring that same passion and drive to Washington,” she said.
Del. Terri Hill: A doctor serving in her third term in the House of Delegates, Hill launched her campaign on Nov. 9 with a promise to “fight for the everyday issues that matter in people’s lives.” That includes healthcare, education, public safety, social justice and “ensuring environmentally sustainable and economically thriving communities.”
In an email announcement, Hill noted that she’s lived in Howard County for 50 years. “I know our community’s history, I share its vision for the future, and I would be honored to serve my neighbors in the United States Congress,” she wrote.
Hill has run for Congress before: Following the death of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, Hill was part of a crowded field of candidates to fill his seat in a special election in 2020. Hill finished fourth in the Democratic primary with 7.4% of the vote, in an election that was ultimately won by U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume.
Del. Mike Rogers: The Anne Arundel County lawmaker filed candidacy paperwork with the federal government on Nov. 10. Rogers is a retired Army colonel from Laurel who was elected to the House of Delegates in 2018.
“I think I can carry the skills I’ve learned in the military and in Annapolis to Washington to advocate for the folks here in Maryland in the 3rd Congressional District,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he has focused on supporting veterans and protecting consumers during his time in Annapolis. In the military, he served in 32 different countries and managed large programs.
“One of the things I learned in the military is to work with people from everywhere, to have the ability to understand the other person’s point of view and to really listen,” he said.
There’s already one Mike Rogers in Congress, a Republican who represents Alabama’s 3rd District and chairs the House Armed Services Committee.
State Sen. Clarence Lam: Lam, a Democrat from Columbia, launched his campaign on Thursday, promoting himself has a pragmatic progressive with a unique medical background.
“I think it takes a problem-solver and a physician and a legislator who has a demonstrated record of achievement to go down there and make a difference for our community,” Lam said in an interview.
A physician specializing in preventive medicine, Lam has been an important voice on public health during his time in Annapolis. He was elected to the House of Delegates in 2014, and then to the state Senate in 2018. Lam’s district was significantly reconfigured in the last round of redistricting, and he currently represents communities in eastern Howard County and northern Anne Arundel County.
If elected to Congress, Lam said he’d like to pick up on Sarbanes’ work on fair elections, public financing of campaigns and good government measures. “It’s important to carry on the legacy that Congressman Sarbanes has had in ensuring we restore faith in our democracy,” Lam said.
He also would work on issues of healthcare affordability and access, as well as improving environmental health.
Yuripzy Morgan: The lawyer and former radio talk show host earned 40% of the vote against Sarbanes in 2022 and said she’s “definitely considering” whether to run again in 2024 and will mull it over with her family. She said she appreciates that Sarbanes recognizes that politics should not be “a lifelong career.”
“I really wish him well. It’s a great example for him to set,” she said.
Not in the running
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman: A past community organizer who also runs a horse farm in Anne Arundel County, the Democrat surprised many when he won his first term as county executive in 2018. Now in his second term, he’s focused on issues including framing gun violence as a public health issue, protecting the environment and supporting affordable housing. But he said in a statement to The Banner: “I want to make clear, in no uncertain terms, that I have a job to finish serving Anne Arundel County as its County Executive.” Pittman endorsed Elfreth.
Former Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford: After eight years as the #2 to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, Rutherford says he’s now enjoying life outside of politics. “No, it won’t be me,” Rutherford said. He remains frustrated with former President Donald J. Trump’s grip on the Republican Party, and thinks the district is unwinnable for a Republican as long as Trump is a factor.
Sen. Dawn Gile: The first-term Democratic state senator from a purple district Anne Arundel County considered running but opted to endorse Elfreth. “Now, more than ever, our nation needs strong women like Sarah on Capitol Hill,” Gile said at Elfreth’s campaign launch.
Del. Dana Jones: Jones spent most of her career helping to elect candidates for groups like Emily’s List and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee before being appointed to the House of Delegates in 2020. The Anne Arundel Democrat considered a run but posted on social media that “this is not the time for me to run.”
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball: The second-term Democratic Howard County executive considered running but announced he wouldn’t run on Nov. 13.
“I know that so much more work lies ahead to truly ensure Howard County remains the best place to live, work, play, grow, and thrive for all,” Ball said in a statement.
Filed to run
A handful of lesser-known candidates have filed paperwork with either the state or the federal government indicating they plan to run, including Republican Bernard Flowers and Democrats Lindsay Donahue and Kristin Anne Lyman Nabors.
This article has been updated.