Cardin faces two-sided chal­lenge

Repub­li­can Camp­bell, in­de­pen­dent Si­mon seek to keep him from 3rd term

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, one of the longest­serv­ing po­lit­i­cal fig­ures in state his­tory, is seek­ing re-elec­tion as a pair of can­di­dates try to shake up a dy­namic in which chal­lengers have his­tor­i­cally strug­gled against Mary­land’s Demo­cratic sen­a­tors.

Mary­land, in which Demo­cratic vot­ers out­num­ber Repub­li­cans 2-1, hasn’t had a non-Demo­cratic U.S. se­na­tor since Repub­li­can Charles McC. Mathias Jr. re­tired in 1987.

This year’s race is un­usual be­cause an in­de­pen­dent, Neal Si­mon, has spent more than $1.7 mil­lion on his cam­paign.

Si­mon, 50, casts him­self as a prag­matic al­ter­na­tive to Cardin and Repub­li­can con­tender Tony Camp­bell. He ac­cuses both par­ties in Wash­ing­ton of spend­ing more time “throw­ing red meat at their bases” than seek­ing so­lu­tions to prob­lems by find­ing com­mon ground.

“They’re play­ing par­ti­san games and get­ting noth­ing done and it’s crip­pling Amer­ica,” says the Po­tomac wealth man­age­ment ex­ec­u­tive in a statewide tele­vi­sion ad. It shows him at the U.S. Capi­tol and in front of a red-and-blue cam­paign bus with “Peo­ple over Pol­i­tics” in white let­ters above his name.

Cardin, 75, is seek­ing a third term af­ter stints in the U.S. House and the state Gen­eral Assem­bly. He said seek­ing a mid­dle ground is not as sim­ple as it sounds.

“Let’s take Ka­vanaugh for a mo­ment,” said Cardin, re­fer­ring to Brett Ka­vanaugh, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nom­i­nee whom the Se­nate nar­rowly ap­proved this month. Cardin said Ka­vanaugh, who de­nied sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions, lacked im­par­tial­ity and could roll back abor­tion rights and civil lib­er­ties.

Cardin said he was “out­raged” at Trump’s se­lec­tion of Ka­vanaugh and be­cause Se­nate Repub­li­cans had re­fused to hold a vote on Mer­rick Gar­land, a judge whom thenPres­i­dent Barack Obama nom­i­nated for the high court in 2016.

“If Neal Si­mon is sug­gest­ing we should be calm about those things, I dis­agree with him,” Cardin said. “But we can have that dis­cus­sion with­out yelling and scream­ing at each other. I don't yell and scream. Through­out my ca­reer, I’ve had the rep­u­ta­tion of work­ing across party lines.”

In an Oct. 7 de­bate, Si­mon said he would have voted “no” on Ka­vanaugh but crit­i­cized both par­ties — Repub­li­cans for re­fus­ing to con­sider Gar­land’s nom­i­na­tion and Democrats for not com­ing for­ward sooner with the al­le­ga­tions pro­fes­sor Chris­tine Blasey Ford brought against Ka­vanaugh.

Camp­bell, 52, a Towson Uni­ver­sity po­lit­i­cal science lec­turer, said he would have voted for Ka­vanaugh and crit­i­cized Democrats for “us­ing peo­ple’s pain for po­lit­i­cal gain.”

Camp­bell said he knew he would be at a dis­ad­van­tage to Cardin in the Nov. 6 elec­tion. “I knew our free me­dia would be few and far be­tween and that he’d prob­a­bly out­spend us, like 10-1.”

Camp­bell had raised $160,000 com­pared to Cardin’s $3.9 mil­lion dur­ing the elec­tion cy­cle, ac­cord­ing to their lat­est avail­able Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion re­ports. Si­mon re­ported rais­ing $1.8 mil­lion, in­clud­ing a $946,600 loan to his cam­paign.

Cardin was first elected to the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates in 1966 and has served in the Gen­eral Assem­bly or Congress since then.

“Peo­ple I’m talk­ing to — Repub­li­cans, Democrats and in­de­pen­dents — think be­ing in elected of­fice for five decades is prob­a­bly two decades too long,” Camp­bell said.

Cardin coun­tered that he has been suc­cess­ful in his long ten­ure be­cause he has man­aged to put aside par­ti­san dif­fer­ences. “Ever since I was in the state leg­is­la­ture, I be­lieved I was go­ing to fight hard on Elec­tion Day to get as many of my like-minded peo­ple elected as pos­si­ble. But when the elec­tion is over, you've got to gov­ern,” he said.

Camp­bell also took is­sue with Si­mon. “Be­cause you say you’re in­de­pen­dent doesn’t mean you're in­de­pen­dent. He’s a lib­eral,” Camp­bell said, cit­ing Si­mon's po­si­tion on gun con­trol.

Si­mon said he once reg­is­tered as a Demo­crat in Mont­gomery County so he could par­tic­i­pate in pri­maries but is now an in­de­pen­dent.

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