- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2006

1:11 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin is hitting the campaign trail determined not to criticize his main opponent for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate — former NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume.

“Basically, the election on the Democratic side is among friends,” Mr. Cardin, 62, told a group of senior citizens at a Silver Spring retirement home Saturday. “I’m running against Kweisi Mfume, and I’m going to ask you to support me because of my record of getting things done.”

Mr. Mfume, though displaying friendship for Mr. Cardin, has not shown the same reluctance to criticize the 10-term congressman.

Mr. Mfume, 57, left a Democratic party rally in Landover on Saturday to drive to a mosque outside Baltimore for a candidates forum. He pointed out that Mr. Cardin had not made the same effort to speak to the crowd of about 50 at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.

“I got in my car, drove 39 miles from the same event that Congressman Cardin is at, because this is important. It is important to be here, and we are here to address your needs,” he said to applause.

At campaign stops throughout the day, Mr. Cardin kept his focus on issues such as health care, the minimum wage and the estate tax, criticizing the Republican Party and its likely Senate nominee, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

“We’ve got great people running in the primary [on Sept. 12],” Mr. Cardin told a crowd of about 300 at the Landover rally while standing on a makeshift wooden stage in a parking lot.

“We must win on November the seventh,” he said, referring to the general election date.

Later, at a house party organized by the Greater Silver Spring Democratic Club, Mr. Cardin said he “loves the fact” that he saw some people wearing Cardin T-shirts and Mfume buttons.

“This is about winning in November,” Mr. Cardin said, casting himself as the candidate who can beat Mr. Steele, a black man who, according to polls, may attract a large number of black swing voters.

However, Mr. Mfume’s tone throughout the day was one of change. He called himself “the un-candidate,” referring to attempts by some Democratic leaders to freeze him out of the primary.

“Our government is broken. I think it’s time we go in another direction,” Mr. Mfume said at the Silver Spring house party, speaking from the wooden railing of the organizer’s backyard deck.

Recent polls show that the race for the Democratic nomination is a dead heat, with Mr. Mfume having come from behind to match or even surpass Mr. Cardin.

“We’re in the 12th round of a heavyweight title fight, and it feels good,” Mr. Mfume said Saturday.

Mr. Cardin still leads Mr. Mfume in fundraising, having about $2.3 million on hand to Mr. Mfume’s roughly $300,000. Mr. Cardin would have about $3 million on hand if the primary were not so competitive.

Mr. Cardin spent $680,000 last month to secure TV time for campaign ads during the last two weeks of August.

Maryland Democratic Senate candidates include Bethesda businessman Josh Rales, history professor Allan Lichtman and socialist activist A. Robert Kaufman, among others.

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