Cardin not running for reelection, opening blue-state Senate seat

The genial Marylander had been been contemplating his plans for months as Democrats eyed his seat. The 79-year-old Cardin is a fixture in Maryland politics, serving first in the statehouse, then the House and then in the Senate since 2007.

He’s the third Senate Democrat to announce they won’t run for reelection, joining Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Of those three states, only Michigan is considered competitive.

Cardin’s announcement will almost certainly jolt the Old Line State’s congressional delegation and political apparatus. Democrats from all corners will consider running for a safe seat that’s also within driving distance of the Capitol — as plum a gig as you’ll find in politics.

Two Democrats are almost certain to jump into the fray: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Rep. David Trone. Both have been hiring staff ahead of Cardin’s retirement announcement. Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, who announced last week that his cancer was in remission, and Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando are other possible contenders.

The retirement of former Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) sparked a tough battle between former Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen in 2016. Van Hollen ultimately prevailed.

Cardin’s retirement will shake up the Senate, as well. Cardin currently chairs the Small Business Committee and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to temporarily appoint him to the Senate Judiciary Committee to replace Feinstein there as she recovers from shingles.

“Senator Cardin has dedicated more than five decades to helping Marylanders from the state house — as the youngest speaker in our state’s history at the time — to the halls of Congress, now as chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee,” Van Hollen said, citing the senator’s long body of work from approving new Russian sanctions to protecting the Chesapeake Bay.

And some of his highest profile work came during his stint as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relation Committee.

There he helped negotiate a bill that allowed Congress to review the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. Congress did not ultimately block the former president’s deal; Cardin voted against it in the end but also argued against withdrawing it.

Cardin announced his retirement Monday in a video message, but his would-be successors started maneuvering before he made it official.

Alsobrooks hired Dave Chase, the campaign manager for Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan’s 2022 Senate run, to manage her bid. Meanwhile, Dan Morrocco, who ran Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s reelection, is likely to helm Trone’s run.

Alsobrooks is close with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and is likely to have the support of EMILY’s List, a group that backs women who support abortion rights and supported Edwards in her unsuccessful 2016 bid. But Trone’s massive fortune could be a problem for her — as the founder of Total Wine & More, Trone has invested tens of millions of his own dollars in his past congressional races.

Alsobrooks released a statement Monday praising Cardin’s record but said nothing about her own plans. However, she noted in a February TV interview that she would be interested in a Senate run if the seat was open: “It would be an amazing opportunity to represent the state.”

Raskin, a progressive who had a starring role in the Jan. 6 investigation, could also be a formidable contender. Recently, he’s been coping with a lymphoma diagnosis that he announced last week had gone into remission. He declined to rule out a Senate run in an interview with POLITICO earlier this year, only saying he’d make that decision once he was healthy.

“I just got to get through this. And then I’ll be able to think about the future,” he said.

Progressives and labor activists have approached Ben Jealous, the unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2018, to urge him to look at a Senate run. But a former Jealous aide said “he has made clear to them that his preference is for Jamie Raskin to run.” Jealous is currently serving as executive director of the Sierra Club.

President Joe Biden carried Maryland by more than 30 points in 2020. But Senate Republicans have tried to lure former GOP Gov. Larry Hogan into the race. POLITICO reported in March that Hogan told Senate GOP Campaign Chair Steve Daines he was not interested in the Senate.

Holly Otterbein, Nicholas Wu and Brakkton Booker contributed to this report.