- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin yesterday courted the senior-citizen vote in his run to represent Maryland in the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, his chief rivals for the Democratic nomination — Kweisi Mfume, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Bethesda businessman Josh Rales — started their final push to the Sept. 12 primary.

During a campaign stop at Ring House Retirement Community in Rockville, Mr. Cardin touted his record of opposing President Bush on the Iraq war and on tax cuts, the Medicare drug plan and a proposal to privatize Social Security.

“It is helping me in the Senate campaign that the voters know that I stood up to George Bush,” he told about 70 of the mostly Jewish residents.

“Democrats are not going to win just because George Bush’s popularity is around 35 percent,” Mr. Cardin said. “Democrats are going to win because we do have a positive message for America’s future.

“We do know how to balance the budget by taking on special interests in health care. We do know how to provide energy independence by taking on the special interests in the oil industry,” he said.

Mr. Cardin received more applause for his attacks on the president than for his health care proposals, which were the focus of the event.

“What I came away with is to be sure to vote Democrat,” said Charlotte Shapiro, 84, a registered Democrat who said she would vote for Mr. Cardin. “The war is what I’m against. It is a war that we didn’t have to be involved with.”

Mr. Cardin’s primary opponents also are tapping the strong anti-war sentiment among Maryland Democrats, and Cardin critics point out that he voted to fund the war after having voted against the invasion of Iraq.

The winner in the Democratic primary likely will face Lt.Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican, in the Nov. 7 general election.

Mr. Steele has voiced support for the war but also has called for an exit strategy.

Mr. Mfume, a former congressman, is calling for an exit strategy for U.S. troops in the “unnecessary war” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s an issue he feels passionate about. It is time to start ending this,” Mfume campaign spokesman Steve Marinoff said.

Mr. Mfume campaigned from Westminster to Hagerstown yesterday, speaking about the need to protect U.S. workers from losing their jobs to globalization and trade agreements.

“We want to do what we can to help them and make sure their voices are heard,” Mr. Marinoff said.

Mr. Mfume will be back in Western Maryland today to meet with the Frederick County Women’s Democratic League.

Mr. Rales, who raised his profile in the race by spending his personal fortune on a statewide TV ad campaign, advocates a complete troop withdraw from Iraq by March.

He took his “Driving Change” bus tour to Howard and Anne Arundel counties yesterday and spoke about health care reform. He is scheduled to travel to Western Maryland today and tomorrow.

“What he is telling the voters is that he is a different kind of candidate,” Rales campaign manager Robin D. Rorapaugh said. “He’s not tied to special interests.”

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