U.S. Representative Van Hollen of Maryland announces Senate run

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said on Wednesday he would run in 2016 for the U.S. Senate seat held by fellow Democrat Barbara Mikulski, who is retiring. "I am very much looking forward to the upcoming campaign and a healthy exchange of ideas," Van Hollen said on his Facebook page. Mikulski, the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history with nearly 30 years in the chamber, said on Monday that she would leave office at the end of her fifth term in 2017. Political observers have floated several Maryland Democrats, including Van Hollen, as possible contenders to succeed the 78-year-old senator. Fellow Democratic U.S. Representative Donna Edwards said she was also "seriously considering" a run for the seat. ”I think it’s important to follow on a legacy of leadership for women and leadership in the Congress for Senator Mikulski and I think I could fill that bill," Edwards, 56, a House of Representatives member since 2008, told MSNBC. Van Hollen, 56, has served in the House since 2003 and is the top Democrat on the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee. He was seen as trying to move up the leadership ladder. Van Hollen is an ally of Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House's top Democrat, and had been mentioned as a possible speaker at some point if his party regained control of the House. The congressman would bring considerable fundraising power to a Senate run. Van Hollen is a former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to get more party members elected to Congress. Van Hollen said a formal announcement would follow. The Baltimore Sun first reported that he had told supporters by email that he planned to run. Other Democratic members of Maryland's House delegation, including Dutch Ruppersberger and John Delaney, have said they are considering runs. A spokesman for Delaney, Will McDonald, said in an email on Wednesday the lawmaker was still strongly considering running despite Van Hollen's announcement. (Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Additional reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Eric Walsh, Jonathan Oatis and Ken Wills)