Tributes pour in for Cardin, whose seat becomes the main prize of 2024 in Md.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) officially announced his decision not to seek a fourth term at high noon on Monday. Two minutes later, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) released a statement on Twitter praising Cardin’s long career and policy achievements.
“I know our friend Ben will continue to work tirelessly through the remainder of his term, and I’m grateful for the example he has set and the legacy he has established,” she said.
Tributes to Cardin rolled in all day Monday, from an array of political, business and civic leaders from every corner of the state. There isn’t an advocacy group or a segment of the economy that Cardin hasn’t touched in a political career that dates back almost 60 years.
Gov. Wes Moore (D) seemed to sum up Cardin’s contributions and career neatly when he called the senator “the epitome of what it means to be a public servant.”
In his own tribute to Cardin, the state’s junior senator, Chris Van Hollen (D), said, “It is a privilege to serve alongside him and in partnership every day for the people of our great state.”
But some statements were more closely scrutinized than others, as the race to replace Cardin, especially in the Democratic primary, is going to take shape quickly. Alsobrooks is expected to enter the Senate race before the end of the month. U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) is also expected to announce a decision on the Senate race very soon — possibly even later in the week.
In a brief interview with reporters during an appearance with Cardin and other elected officials at Pleasant View, a historical African-American community in North Potomac, Trone called Cardin “a champion for people all over the United States. Wow, what a career.”
Asked whether he plans to run for Senate, Trone replied, “We’ll have more to say over the next couple of days and next couple of weeks and we’ll be happy to address that.” He quickly pivoted back to Cardin.
“What a career for Ben Cardin,” Trone said. “Man, was he unbelievable? And he still [has] two more great years left.”
Later in the day, Trone’s campaign sent out an email urging his supporters to send Cardin an electronic card “congratulating Senator Cardin on his remarkable career and thanking him for his service to our great state!”
Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando (D), who is also eyeing the Senate race, issued a statement Monday thanking Cardin for securing $40 million in federal aid for the state’s largest jurisdiction this year alone.
“There are few people in Maryland, let alone the United States Senate, that have delivered more for working families than Senator Cardin,” Jawando said.
Jawando’s ultimate disposition on the Senate race may depend on what U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8th) decides to do. Raskin just successfully completed a multi-month cancer treatment, and if he decides to seek Cardin’s Senate seat, Jawando in all likelihood would drop back and run for the 8th District House seat. But if Raskin chooses to remain in the House, which seems the likeliest scenario, Jawando will probably remain focused on the Senate. He does not have to sacrifice his council seat to run in 2024.
In his own statement, Raskin thanked Cardin, “his beloved wife Myrna” and their family to their contributions to the state.
“After 58 years of integrity-filled public service, where he showed his prodigious work ethic from Annapolis to Washington, Senator Ben Cardin has assembled a remarkable record of advancing the needs and priorities of Maryland,” Raskin said. “I salute him and have congratulated him on a truly amazing and inspiring career devoted to service of our people and the old-fashioned public values of honesty and decency.”
Trone’s financial assets in any statewide campaign are almost limitless — the wealthy CEO of a national liquor store chain has already spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money on his four congressional campaigns. Raskin similarly has a bulging campaign war chest that he could begin using for a statewide campaign.
Alsobrooks and Jawando, on the other hand, would have to open federal campaign accounts before they can proceed too far with their Senate bids. While Alsobrooks had $230,902 in her county campaign treasury as of mid-January, and Jawando reported $5,155 on hand, state and local officials can only transfer a maximum of $1,000 a year from their state or local accounts to a federal account.
The same would be true if Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. (D), who had more than $1.6 million in his campaign fund, decides to run for Senate next year. If some combination of Alsobrooks, Trone, Raskin, and Jawando run for Senate, Olszewski and his advisers may conclude that there is a lane in the primary for a Baltimore-based candidate. Cardin is a lifelong Baltimorean, while Van Hollen is from Montgomery County.
But the state is increasingly tilting to the Washington, D.C., suburbs in Democratic primaries. There are about 455,000 registered Democrats in Prince George’s County and 420,000 in Montgomery County. Baltimore County has 314,000 enrolled Democrats while Baltimore City has 297,000.
On average, in the past three statewide Democratic contests, 20% of the vote in the primary came from Montgomery, 19% came from Prince George’s, while 14% came from Baltimore County and 13% came from the city.
Olszewski, who would also consider a run for the U.S. House if Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2nd) retires, led with Baltimore in his Twitter statement praising Cardin Monday.
“The Baltimore region and the entire state of Maryland will forever be grateful for the incalculable contributions of @SenatorCardin,” he tweeted.
Other potential contenders for the Democratic Senate nomination include U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-6th), whose father, the late Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D), was replaced by Cardin in 2006, and Ben Jealous, the Sierra Club national president and the party’s 2018 nominee for governor.
State Del. Lily Qi (D-Montgomery), one of the elected officials who toured the Pleasant View property with Cardin and Trone on Monday, said Democrats have a “deep, talented pool” of possible candidates to replace him.
“I can see a lot of people who could be wonderful candidates that will represent today’s Maryland,” she said. “We want to see a competitive race. We want to hear the debates and dialogues and [hear candidates] bring out their best ideas. After today, we would know much better who is seriously thinking about that.”
Get ready for Jerome Segal and Robin Ficker
The news about Cardin did bring a swift announcement Monday from Jerome Segal, the former University of Maryland lecturer, peace activist and founder of the now-defunct Bread and Roses Party who ran for Senate in 2018, for president in 2020 and for governor in 2022. Segal had already signaled his plan to seek the presidency again in 2024 but has now pivoted to the Democratic Senate primary.
It seems unlikely that Republicans will seriously contest the Senate seat in 2024. Asked if former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) would consider a Senate bid now that the seat is going to be vacant, David Weinman, who runs Hogan’s political organization, An America United, forwarded Maryland Matters a Politico article from late March showing that the former governor continues to resist entreaties from national GOP leaders to consider the race.
Hogan did tweet his congratulations to Cardin on Monday.
“I want to thank @SenatorCardin for his decades of distinguished service to Marylanders,” Hogan wrote. “While we did not always agree, we often worked together as Team Maryland to do what is best for the people of our state.”
Robin Ficker, the anti-tax activist and perennial candidate, has announced that he plans to seek the GOP Senate nomination next year.
In his own lengthy written tribute to Cardin, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted that Democrats would retain the Senate seat.
“Ben has been instrumental in building and maintaining a strong Maryland Democratic party, and with his help, I am confident Democrats will retain his seat,” he said.
The state party, in a statement on Cardin, said, “we look forward to seeing the continued benefits of the vast positive influence he has had on our next generation of Maryland Democrats.”
In an interview Monday, Cardin said he had spoken to all of the potential Democratic candidates to succeed him and was curious to see who would be able to put together a solid campaign given the high cost of running for political office these days.
“I believe in the political system,” he said. “But the way it’s gone, the expenses, it’s really crazy. If you take the 18 elections I ran in and all the money I raised for all of my campaigns, some candidates are raising that in just a quarter.”
William J. Ford contributed to this report.
(Disclosure: The David and June Trone Family Foundation has been a financial supporter of Maryland Matters. Jamie Raskin and Will Jawando have been featured guests at Maryland Matters fundraisers.)