DemDaily: Cardin Retirement Sets Off Maryland Melee

May 3, 2023

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin announced on Monday that he will not seek a fourth term to the Maryland US Senate seat, setting off a scramble of speculation over contenders for his successor in the traditionally solidly blue state.

Cardin, the highly esteemed senior Senator from Maryland, has spent 56 years in elected office. He was first elected to the state house in 1968, where he served as the youngest Speaker of the House in the state’s history, before being elected to Congress in 1986.

He succeeded US Senator Paul Sarbanes in 2006 and won his third term to the upper chamber in 2018 with 65% of the vote. He currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

Cardin, 79, who said he wanted to prioritize being with his family after spending most of his life in public office, thanked Marylanders in a heartwarming 5 1/2 minute video with his wife Myrna.

“I am proud of all I have done for Maryland. I have given my heart and soul to our great state, and I thank Marylanders for trusting me as your representative for all these years.” - retiring Senator Ben Cardin

In the heavily blue Free State, which Joe Biden won by 33 points over Donald Trump in 2020, the winner of the Democratic primary is often the presumed general election winner. Democrats hold both US Senate seats, seven of the eight congressional seats, the Governor's mansion and supermajorities in both chambers of the Maryland legislature.

The Democrats Contenders
Barring the entry of a high-profile Republican in the race, the contest will be fought among a crowded field of Democratic contenders, already rolling out their announcements.

On Tuesday, Montgomery County Council At Large member Will Jawando officially launched his campaign with a video promising "a bold, progressive vision." First elected in 2018, Jawando previously served in the Obama administration as Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and later as Deputy Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Department of Education under then-Secretary Arne Duncan.

Three-term Congressman David Trone, whose sixth district encompasses western Maryland, including Frederick, is also expected to make an announcement this week.

The millionaire Total Wine & More tycoon was elected to Congress in 2018 with 59% of the vote, and was reelected with the same percentage in 2020. Although redistricting reapportioned his once safely Democratic seat into a Republican-leaning district, he defeated GOP challenger Neil Parrott with 54.8% of the vote in 2022.

In that race Trone lent his campaign $12.5 million, and, with an estimated net worth of $33 million, has the capacity to pour considerably more into the Senate contest.

Congressman Jamie Raskin, a progressive favorite, has represented the Montgomery County-based 8th district since 2017. Raskin, who rose to national fame as the lead manager in former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial and as a high-profile member of the House January 6th Committee, would be a major contender if he entered the race.

However, the former constitutional law scholar, who was just elevated to senior ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, is now in remission after recent treatment for lymphoma cancer -- making a grueling campaign less likely.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, a formidable force whose early support of now-Governor Wes Moore is credited with boosting his historic win, has reportedly been staffing up for her yet-announced Senate bid.

Elected in 2018 after a high-profile primary that included former Congresswoman Donna Edwards and seven other candidates, Alsobrooks previously served two terms as state attorney for the affluent majority-Black Montgomery County. If elected, she would be the first woman to represent Maryland in the Senate since the retirement of Senator Barbara Mikulski in 2016.

Other names in the fray: Baltimore County Executive John “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr., Congressman John Sarbanes (CD 3-Baltimore), Congressman Kweisi Mfume (CD-7 Baltimore), former 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and Sierra Club national president Ben Jealous, former DNC Chair and 2022 gubernatorial candidate Tom Perez, former Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, and State Senator Cheryl Kagan (Rockville/Gaithersburg).

Should any of the congressional delegation run, it will also set off a domino effect of opening US House seats, further scrambling potential contenders who may opt instead for the lower chamber.

On average, in the last three statewide Democratic contests, 20% of the vote in the primary came from Montgomery County, 19% came from Prince George’s County, 14% from Baltimore County and 13% from the city of Baltimore.

Potential Spoiler
Despite their overwhelming advantage in voter registration, Maryland Democrats have shown a willingness to vote for a more moderate Republican. Former GOP Governor Larry Hogan, elected in 2014 with 51% of the vote, was reelected in 2018 with 55%.

Hogan, who was a vocal Trump critic, flirted with a 2024 presidential run, but in March announced he would not pursue the GOP nomination, saying, "The stakes are too high for me to risk being part of another multicar pileup that could potentially help Mr. Trump recapture the nomination.” Hogan has not, however, ruled out running as a third-party presidential candidate.

Hogan's entry into the race would quickly turn it into one of top targets of 2024. While heavily courted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee Senate, however, he has reiterated his lack of interest in serving in the US Senate.

DemList will keep you informed.

Related: DemDaily: Update on the Senate Landscape 3/16/23

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Resources: Washington Post, Ballotpedia, Politico, Time

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