- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

BALTIMORE — Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin told supporters early this morning he was confident he had won Maryland’s Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate and he described a campaign against Republican nominee Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele that focused on dissatisfaction with President Bush.

“We need a United States senator who will hold President Bush accountable,” Mr. Cardin told supporters at about 2 a.m. at the Wyndham Baltimore Hotel as long-delayed election results slowly trickled in. “We will hold President Bush accountable.”

He vowed to fight for a progressive energy policy, to fight for universal health care, to fight for working families, American workers and small businesses and to hold President Bush accountable for “fiscal recklessness.”

By 9 a.m. about 93 percent of the precincts had reported election results that Mr. Cardin received 47 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Kweisi Mfume, former congressman and past president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The remainder of the Democratic primary vote was split among 16 lesser-known candidates, including Bethesda millionaire Josh Rales and former Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen.

Mr. Cardin, who is white, used his quasi-victory speech to begin shoring up support among usually loyal black Democratic voters who the party’s leaders fear will defect to Mr. Steele, who in 2002 became the first black person elected to statewide office in Maryland and has attracted national attention to the state’s senate race.

He said the election provided a “moral challenge” and he invoked the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, which critics of President Bush say demonstrated the administration’s indifference to poor, black communities.

“Katrina was not the disaster caused by nature. It was the disaster of government’s failure to help our most vulnerable people,” he said. “I am running for the United States Senate to change the priorities in Washington, to take on the moral challenges of our time and to never ever leave Americans behind.

Mr. Steele, who received about 87 percent of the vote in a field of 10 candidates,.said in his victory speech Tuesday night that he was the candidate with an independent voice who would challenge the status quo in Washington.

“Tonight the eyes of the whole country is turning toward Maryland and they are looking exactly at this campaign to see how far this country has come,” Mr. Steele said. “Tonight we say to Maryland and we say to America, ‘We are ready to shake things up.’”

Mr. Cardin said Mr. Steele “sounded like a Democrat.”

He later stressed that Mr. Steele is aligned with President Bush, Vice President Dick Chaney and White House senior adviser Karl Rove three Republican figures who receive widespread disapproval in heavily Democratic Maryland.

He said the four men would be disappointed to see “Democratic are united” after the primary race.

“We want to change what’s happening in Washington,” he told the cheering crowd. “Are you ready for a change?”

Mr. Mfume, speaking to supporters at 1:39 a.m., was still holding out slim hope for victory.

“It appears to us … that 30 percent of the vote is still out there and it looks like it’s out there in areas that we think we have,” Mr. Mfume said. “But we’re not certain about that at all.”

Mr. Mfume acknowledged that time was running out.

“If we don’t find [30,000 votes] soon, then although I wanted to be Ben’s senator, he might just have to be mine, and if he is, he’ll be a damn good senator,” Mr. Mfume said.

Mr. Mfume also said that problems like the ones at voting stations in Maryland yesterday “should never happen again.”

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