The Baltimore Sun

Today, The Sun concludes its endorsements for the Sept. 12 primary election with races for the U.S. Congress.

For the first time in two decades, Maryland will have a new U.S. senator. And more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans are seeking the chance to compete for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. In a very talented field, the two most qualified Democratic candidates are Benjamin L. Cardin and Kweisi Mfume. The longtime friends offer differences in style, if not policy. Mr. Mfume is certainly charismatic. But Mr. Cardin, who can be equally passionate about the issues, has proved to be a master of the legislative process and is the better choice.

He's a seasoned veteran who first demonstrated his legislative and leadership skills in the General Assembly, as a member and then as speaker of the House of Delegates. In 1987, Mr. Cardin moved to the House of Representatives, where he is a leading member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, skilled at shaping bipartisan consensus whether in the majority or the minority. He has long been respected for his ability to understand complicated issues and work behind the scenes to produce legislation that benefits consumers and workers.

Mr. Cardin has paid attention to local issues, such as pushing to strengthen regional mass transit. And he has been a principal sponsor of important national legislation, including a law that covered preventive screenings and services for Medicare patients and another law that increased maximum contributions to individual retirement accounts and other private savings plans. He has also been a strong advocate for budget and tax reform, expanded educational opportunities and an increased minimum wage. And he voted against the war in Iraq.

Mr. Mfume, another Iraq war critic, also has extensive political and legislative experience - as a member of the Baltimore City Council and the U.S. House, where he chaired the Congressional Black Caucus. He left the House in 1996 to become president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where during his eight-year tenure he helped retire $3 million in debt and also helped revitalize the organization.

Both men have impressive credentials, but weighing their accomplishments and skills, we are convinced Mr. Cardin would be more effective in the Senate.

Although there are 10 candidates for the Republican nomination, none measures up to Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a former Maryland GOP chairman who has the edge because of his name recognition and overwhelming support from the state and national party establishments. He should be the nominee.

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