'Endorsement' disputed


Del. Bobby A. Zirkin recently posted an announcement on his campaign Web site: "Endorsements Keep Rolling In! Cummings, Ruppersberger, Cardin Endorse Zirkin for Senate."

By Tuesday morning, the item had disappeared.

The change came as Zirkin's top opponent in the race accused him of exaggerating support from Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin.

Zirkin, a Democrat who's running for a state Senate seat in Baltimore County, said he misinterpreted conversations with Cardin during which the congressman expressed his "support" for Zirkin and two local delegates running for re-election.

"His statement to us is that he's supporting our team," Zirkin said. "When he said 'supporting our team,' I took that as 'endorse.' I guess there's a difference between 'support' and 'endorse.'"

The issue surfaced after Scott Rifkin, an Owings Mills physician who is challenging Zirkin in the Democratic primary, saw the announcement on Zirkin's Web site last week.

Rifkin, who has been seeking an endorsement from Cardin, said he immediately called the congressman, and that Cardin told him he had not endorsed Zirkin.

A Cardin spokesman said this week that the congressman has not endorsed anyone in the race.

"We're not keeping close tabs on everyone's campaign Web sites, but Ben and Bobby have been good friends for many years," the spokesman, Oren Shur, said in an e-mail response to questions about the announcement on Zirkin's Web site. "They've discussed the race and Ben believes that Bobby will be a very effective State Senator."

Shur declined to comment further.

Rifkin said an endorsement from Cardin, who was first elected to Congress in 1987 and is running for the U.S. Senate, would "obviously be important to anyone."

"Our concern is that by using the term 'endorsement' or using the term 'support,' which are very specific political terms, our opponent has misled the community," Rifkin said. "I think he should go further and inform all the folks that he sent communications to that it was incorrect."

Zirkin said he believes the issue has been sufficiently addressed. He said he removed the announcement so he could post a newer item, but added that he will no longer use the two terms interchangeably.

"I've done exactly what Congressman Cardin has asked me to do, which is to say that for the time being he's supporting our team and that anything more on the topic will come later," Zirkin said.

Representatives of U.S. Reps. Elijah E. Cummings and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said the congressmen did not object to Zirkin's use of the word "endorse."

Rifkin and Zirkin are running for the 11th District Senate seat held by Democrat Paula C. Hollinger, who is running for Congress. The 11th District includes Pikesville and other areas of northwest Baltimore County.

Zirkin, a 35-year-old Pikesville lawyer and a delegate since 1999, has been campaigning with Cardin's nephew, Jon S. Cardin, and Dan K. Morhaim, both delegates who are seeking re-election in the 11th District.

Jon Cardin and Morhaim said they have been told by Benjamin Cardin that the congressman supports the "team" of Zirkin, Morhaim and Jon Cardin.

Morhaim said he could not recall whether he has used "support" or "endorse" in his campaign literature to describe Benjamin Cardin's support.

"I'm not sure I understand the distinction," Morhaim said.

"'Support' and 'endorse' are terms that people use interchangeably," he added. "I don't see it as an issue."


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