Sen. Ben Cardin, a fixture in Maryland Democratic politics for more than five decades, filed Monday to run for a third term in the U.S. Senate.
Cardin, a former state lawmaker who went on to serve 10 terms in the House, has been building a campaign and fundraising operation for months — and was expected to run — but he had not previously directly answered questions about his intentions.
Known as an even-keeled lawmaker who enjoys getting into the weeds on policy, Cardin, 74, will face four other Democrats in the June 26 primary, most notably Chelsea Manning, the transgender Maryland woman who was convicted of sharing thousands of military documents with Wikileaks.
Manning, 30, is running a campaign to Cardin’s left politically, setting up a possible repeat of the themes that played out during the 2016 race between former Rep. Donna F. Edwards, who also ran to the left, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who ultimately captured the seat left open by the retirement of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
The other Democrats challenging Cardin in the primary are Jerome “Jerry” Segal, Richard “Rikki” Vaughn and Debbie “Rica” Wilson.
Cardin was first elected to the Senate in 2006. Before that, he had served since 1987 in the House. He was elected to a seat representing Baltimore in the House of Delegates in 1967 while still a law student at the University of Maryland.
Cardin — who won a nine-way primary election in 2012 with 74 percent of the vote and a four-way general election with 56 percent — said he welcomed the interest in the race. He is running for a third term in the Senate.
“I‘m prepared for whomever gets in the race,” Cardin told The Sun. “I have a story to tell that’s going to be rather compelling.”
Asked about the attention Manning’s campaign had brought to the Democratic primary, Cardin quipped, “I recognize that there are now more people aware of my reelection than there was before.” Though Manning appears to be prepared to run a campaign to the left of Cardin, the incumbent said he isn’t worried about his ties to progressives.
“What Donald Trump has brought to Washington is going to be a central part of this campaign,” Cardin said. “I don’t believe there will be any question as to where I stand regarding President Trump.”
A spokeswoman for the Manning campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Cardin announced his decision to seek re-election even as a critical question about his future remains unanswered: whether he will retain his spot as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Cardin took over the job in 2015 from New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, who was fighting federal corruption charges.
The Department of Justice dropped that case last week, and Menendez has previously said he wants the seat back.
Cardin has used the committee position to elevate his national profile, frequently serving as his party’s lead voice on national television to counter foreign policy moves made by President Donald Trump. In a lengthy report earlier this year, Cardin called on the Trump administration to vastly expand the U.S. response to Russian interference in elections.
Only one Republican, Gerald I. Smith Jr., has filed to run so far. The deadline to file is Feb. 27.