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Cardin decides not to run again, ending Hill career begun in 1987

Democrats may battle for nomination but favored to hold seat

Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin will not seek another term in Maryland next year.
Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin will not seek another term in Maryland next year. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said Monday that he would not seek reelection next year, bringing to a close a congressional career that began in 1987 in the House. 

The Maryland Democrat first won his Senate seat in 2006 and was last reelected in 2018 by more than 30 percentage points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rated the race as Solid Democratic, and even without Cardin on the ballot, Democrats are favored to hold the seat. 

“It’s time,” Cardin, 79, told The Baltimore Sun. “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 discussed highlights of his career, including efforts to clean up Chesapeake Bay and the Magnitsky Act providing international sanctions for human rights violations, in a five-and-a-half-minute video discussion with his wife, Myrna Cardin, released by his office.

“I’m proud of all I have done for Maryland,” Cardin said in a statement. “I have given my heart and soul to our great state, and I thank Marylanders for trusting me as your representative all these years. … I have run my last election and will not be on the ballot in 2024.”

Cardin’s campaign reported hauling in just $15,000 during the first three months of this year, less than any other senator up for reelection in 2024 and well below the $325,000 raised in the first quarter of 2017, the same point in the previous election cycle, Federal Election Commission filings show.

Cardin had $995,000 in his campaign account on March 31, less than half what his fellow Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen had in the bank as of that date. Van Hollen spent more than $5.7 million on his 2022 reelection, FEC records show

“With Cardin heading for the exits, a lot of Maryland Democrats will take a long look at their options. Open Senate seats in Maryland don’t come around very often,” said Gonzales, CQ Roll Call’s elections analyst. “Even though there could be an expensive and competitive Democratic primary, Democrats are heavily favored to win the general election.” 

Potential Democratic candidates to succeed him include Reps. Jamie Raskin and David Trone, as well as county executives Angela Alsobrooks of Prince George’s County and Johnny Olzewski Jr. of Baltimore County. Former Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, had previously ruled out a Senate run. 

Cardin declined to back a successor in his interview with the Sun. After his term ends in 2025, Cardin told the paper he expects to remain involved in some capacity with issues such as human rights and the environment. 

Cardin, a Baltimore native, chairs the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, where he played a leading role in devising the Paycheck Protection Program*, one of the biggest programs during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

He and the panel’s then-Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla., worked together on the program. The two also built a working relationship on the Foreign Relations Committee, where Cardin currently chairs a subcommittee on the State Department and other agencies. 

Cardin also chairs the Finance Subcommittee on Health Care.

Before his election to the House, Cardin entered the Maryland House of Delegates at age 23, before he graduated from the University of Maryland’s law school, and ultimately became the youngest House speaker in Maryland in 100 years. His father, Meyer Cardin, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, was a Baltimore judge and served in the Maryland House, too.

Cardin was in his 10th term in the House when Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes announced his retirement. Aiming to succeed him, Cardin ran in a 2006 primary in which his chief competitor was a longtime friend, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who had left the House in 1996 to become president of the NAACP. Cardin won, 44 percent to 41 percent. In the general election, he defeated Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, Maryland’s first Black statewide elected official.

*FiscalNote, parent company of CQ Roll Call, received a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program.

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