Cardin, Winner of 36 Elections, to Pass on 2024 Contest

May 1, 2023 by Dan McCue
Cardin, Winner of 36 Elections, to Pass on 2024 Contest
Sen. Ben Cardin and his wife Myrna, in a scene from the YouTube video they released Monday morning.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland’s senior U.S. senator, a Democrat and winner of 36 elections, including primaries and general election contests, announced Monday he will not seek reelection next year.

Cardin’s decision will bring to an end an astonishing 58 consecutive years in public service come January 2025, a career that began with his being elected to Maryland’s House of Delegates at the age of 22 in 1966.

“It’s an unusual day for me,” Cardin quipped when he spoke of his plans during a Law Day ceremony held by the Baltimore County Bar Association in Towson, Maryland.

Cardin was still attending the University of Maryland’s law school when he took his seat as a delegate for the first time, and he later became the youngest House speaker in Maryland in 100 years.

He began his Washington career in 1987, when he was elected to the House of Representatives.

Cardin went on to win his Senate seat for the first time in 2006 and was last reelected in 2018 by more than 30 percentage points.

In the Senate, Cardin chairs the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, the subcommittee on the State Department in the Foreign Relations Committee, and the Finance Subcommittee on Health Care.

“It’s been an incredible journey,” he told reporters at the Baltimore County courthouse following his Law Day speech.

During an interview with The Baltimore Sun published Monday morning, the still energetic lawmaker said, “I always knew this election cycle would be the one I would be thinking about not running again, so it’s not something that hit me by surprise. I enjoy life. There are other things I can do.”

Cardin and his wife Myrna expounded on that journey in a five-and-a-half-minute video posted on YouTube.

In it they both spoke of how astonished they were that public services became the focus of their lives, and Cardin spoke of moments in his long career that made him especially proud, including his role in helping to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

“I’m proud of all I have done for Maryland,” Cardin said in a statement that accompanied the video. “I have given my heart and soul to our great state, and I thank Marylanders for trusting me as your representative all these years.”

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Cardin “a public servant through and through.”

“Ben Cardin has made meeting the needs of Marylanders his life’s work. He is one of my dearest friends in the U.S. Senate and someone I’ve always admired for favoring substance over flash, for digging deeply into issues, and for his ability time and again to persuade his colleagues of the justice of his causes, often working across the aisle to turn his ideas into successful legislation,” Schumer said.

“Throughout nearly half a century in public office … Ben has fought fiercely for Maryland. He has been a tireless advocate for our country’s entrepreneurs, particularly business owners from underrepresented communities,” the majority leader continued. “He’s prioritized the needs of Main Street, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, working on legislation that would protect family restaurants, local shop owners, and independent businesses, including in the arts and culture industries, making sure they could weather unprecedented uncertainty.

“Ben has defended democracy and human rights and stood up for accountability and transparency in America and around the world. And he believes at his core that women’s rights are human rights and championed the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment throughout his career,” Schumer said.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., also spoke of his friend and colleague’s “prodigious work ethic.”

“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. I want to thank him, his beloved wife Myrna and their whole family for their outstanding and continuing contributions to our state,” he said.

Also saluting Cardin was Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., whom Cardin defeated in the 2006 primary that ultimately led to Cardin’s succeeding the retiring Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes. 

“Ben Cardin is a model public servant, principled leader and citizen,” Mfume said. “I have been honored to call him my friend and colleague for over four decades. He deserves our heartiest congratulations today and every day for the 57 years of untiring work on behalf of Marylanders. My sincere best wishes to he and Myrna for the example of family that they have set together.” 

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said Monday that Maryland had benefited from Cardin’s tireless work, and that his impact on the state “is truly immeasurable.”

“Throughout his political career, he has fought for those who needed and deserved a champion. He ensured equity in access to essential government services,” Moore said. “As senator, his work to enact the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities led to significant advances in research that we saw all too necessary during the COVID pandemic, and his work as leader of the Senate Small Business Committee ensured equal access to capital for minority-owned businesses. We are all so grateful for his sacrifice and dedication that has made Maryland a better home for everyone.”

Because he’s been so successful for so long in politics, Cardin’s departure from electoral politics is expected to touch off a significant scramble to replace him.

At least two public officials, Rep. David Trone, D-Md., and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks are said to have assembled political teams for Senate campaigns, and Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando is also widely expected to run. 

Others who might consider a run are Raskin, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., and Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md.

On the Republican side, speculation on Monday immediately turned to former Gov. Larry Hogan, who in the past has said he wasn’t interested in making a bid for the Senate.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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