Ben Cardin, the Maryland Democrat who has held elected office for more than 50 years, won his third term in the U.S. Senate Tuesday in a three-way race.
Cardin prevailed handily in a low-visibility contest in which the two challengers, Republican Tony Campbell and independent Neal Simon, struggled to gain statewide attention.
“As I traveled throughout Maryland, there is a lot of energy out there,” Cardin said at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, where he was celebrating. “They want to see an independent Congress — independent of the president. I heard that over and over again. People also want us to work across party lines to get things done.”
Campbell and Simon were trying to become the first non-Democrat to be a U.S. senator in Maryland since Republican Charles McC. Mathias Jr. retired in 1987
The contest was unusual because of the presence of a well-funded, unaffiliated candidate — Simon — who reported raising $1.8 million, including a $946,600 loan to his campaign.
Simon traveled around the state in a red-and-blue campaign bus that said "People over Politics" in white letters above his name. The Potomac wealth management executive accused both political parties of playing “partisan games and getting nothing done.”
Cardin, who raised $3.9 million, countered that he has often demonstrated the ability to work with both parties.
In campaign ads, the senator — using the tagline “My Friend Ben” — emphasized his role in helping to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, overhaul drinking water and wastewater systems, and safeguard health insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
His Senate website includes a page called “Tracking the Trump Administration,” which has sections on President Donald Trump’s health care policies as well as “discriminatory or dangerous actions” and “conflicts of interest,” among other topics.
Cardin said the presence of Simon in the contest didn’t affect his strategy because “I generally run my race, whether it’s two people running” or more.
“We didn’t win this time,” Simon said in remarks prepared for delivery to supporters in Rockville. “But real change can be like chipping at a dam. You keep knocking down pieces, and eventually the river flows through.”
Trump played a central role in the race’s only debate, with Cardin calling for a strong Senate to stand up to the president. Campbell, meanwhile, did not seek to distance himself from the president, as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has done. Instead, he strongly endorsed some of Trump’s signature policies, including building a wall on the Mexican border and reducing the role of the U.S. Department of Education in local affairs. Simon said he did not vote for Trump but agreed with some of his actions, including moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Cardin,75, has been a fixture in Maryland politics since being elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1966. He has served in the General Assembly or Congress since then.
Campbell, 52, a Towson University political science lecturer, raised nearly $200,000. He did not receive the endorsement of Hogan, who said he was staying out of the race.
Simon said he recently ran into Hogan at a Baltimore food hall, and that the governor said he voted for the independent in early voting. In an interview, Hogan praised Simon but declined to reveal his choice in any specific race.