By Ian Decker, Capital News Service
With long-serving Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin announcing his retirement Monday, Democrats are likely to see a primary fight next year to replace him.
So far, one Democrat – Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando – has announced his candidacy to replace Cardin, which most political observers consider a safe Democratic seat.
Other potential Democratic candidates are Maryland Reps. Jamie Raskin and David Trone, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.
A Republican who could have made the general election contest more competitive – former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan – told “The Hill on NewsNation” Tuesday he would not run for the Senate, explaining “it’s just not something I ever aspired to do.”
Cardin, 79, has served as senator since 2006. Before that, he represented Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District in the House and was the speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.
“I am proud of all I have done for Maryland,” Cardin said. “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.”
Jawando, an attorney and author who served as an adviser to former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, announced his intention to run for Cardin’s seat in a video released Tuesday.
Jawando has focused on lowering rents, tackling racial justice issues and building affordable housing in Montgomery County. He said he’s running for Cardin’s seat because “I believe we can build a shared prosperity in Maryland that lifts everyone up.”
Jawando faces an uphill battle, especially if other high-profile candidates decide to enter the race.
“Very slim chance,” John Dedie, a political science professor at the Community College of Baltimore County, told Capital News Service. “He is known in Montgomery County and nowhere else.”
Dedie was more bullish on Alsobrooks.
Dedie pointed to Alsobrooks’ experience at the local government level, saying that her work in PG County gives her insight into challenges such as infrastructure and transportation. And based on her overwhelming victory in the county executive race, Dedie thought Alsobrooks could make the jump to senator.
“There’s nothing like being a county executive in a highly, densely-populated area to help yourself,” Dedie said of Alsobrooks. “She hasn’t made political enemies that have caused any problems, so I think that she could become the natural favorite.”
Alsobrooks also endorsed Gov. Wes Moore during his campaign, and he went on to win the county by almost 200,000 votes. Dedie thinks it’s possible the governor returns the favor. Moore’s endorsement would cement Alsobrooks as a contender — other challengers might not want to anger the current governor by running against a candidate he supports.
Dedie also noted that in 1992, the 10-person Maryland congressional delegation featured five women. The delegation is currently all men, a fact that could be a strong argument in favor of Alsobrooks.
Raskin, who gained prominence when he led arguments in the impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump and recently announced his cancer is in remission, has not yet revealed his intentions.
Trone also has not announced but has been hiring staff in anticipation of a campaign, as has Alsobrooks, according to Politico.
However, Dedie pointed to Raskin’s health as something that might worry voters, and he noted that should Trone run for the Senate, it would be difficult for Democrats to maintain their seat in the 6th Congressional District, which includes several conservative counties.
On the Republican side, Dedie suggested that Kathy Szeliga, who ran against Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, in 2016 and received 36 percent of the vote, might be someone to watch.
But in a party dominated by Dan Cox, a staunch Trump supporter, it is unlikely that Maryland would select a moderate candidate to challenge for the open seat.
As such, Cardin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, maintained their confidence that Democrats would retain the seat. Marland hasn’t elected a Republican senator since Charles Mathias in 1980.
Kyle Kondik, editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, agreed.
“…In a presidential year and in a federal election, we still think Democrats would be clearly favored to hold the seat,” he wrote Tuesday.
Maryland’s primary election will be May 14, 2024, and the general election is Nov. 5, 2024.
Of the 100 Senate seats, 34 will be contested next year. The Democrats are defending 20 of those 34 seats; the Republicans hold 11 seats and independents three seats.
The Democrats currently maintain a thin 51-49-seat margin in the Senate (three independents caucus with the Democrats).
Besides Cardin, two other Democratic senators so far have announced their retirements: Dianne Feinstein of California and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. One Republican senator, Mike Braun of Indiana, has announced that he is running for governor.