WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Friday endorsed Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland for the U.S. Senate, Van Hollen's press office announced.
"Not only would Chris Van Hollen be the best and most effective person for the job, I have no doubt that he is in the best and strongest position to make sure that this Senate seat remains in Democratic hands in a state that just elected a Republican governor," Reid, whose party is in the minority in the Senate, said in the statement.
Van Hollen, 56, said earlier this week that he is running for the seat in 2016 to replace Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, who is retiring. Van Hollen, who has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2003, is the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
He has been seen as someone with a bright future in the House. As an ally of Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House's top Democrat, Van Hollen had been mentioned as a possible speaker at some point if his party regained control of the House.
Reid's endorsement adds hefty top-tier support to Van Hollen's candidacy amid speculation that others may jump in the race.
Other Democratic members of Maryland's House delegation, including Dutch Ruppersberger and John Delaney, have said they are considering runs, and some in the party's progressive wing are encouraging Representative Donna Edwards to get into the contest.
Van Hollen, who represents Maryland's 8th District in the House, also brings considerable fund-raising power to a Senate run, as a former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Mikulski, 78, is the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history with nearly 30 years in the upper chamber.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Eric Beech)