Ben Cardin (D), Maryland’s senior U.S. senator and one of the longest-serving elected officials in American history, does not plan to seek reelection in 2024.
Cardin’s office put out a statement and video at noon on Monday, and he was expected to elaborate on his plans during a midday speech at the Baltimore County Bar Association’s Law Day ceremony in Towson.
“It’s been the honor of my life to represent the people of Maryland in the General Assembly, as Speaker of the House of Delegates, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and now in the United States Senate,” Cardin said in his statement.
“From an early age, my family and my faith instilled in me the spirit of helping our community and that we all have a responsibility to make the world around us a better place. These values have always been present in my home and have driven my years of public service to Maryland and the nation.”
By the time he retires from the Senate in January 2025, Cardin, 79, will have served in elective office for 58 consecutive years. He was elected to the House of Delegates in 1966 at the age of 22, while still in law school, filling a seat based in northern Baltimore City that had been held for decades by his uncle (his father had also briefly been a state lawmaker, then served as a judge).
His decision to end his political career is sure to set off an immediate scramble in the Democratic Party to replace him — and create a domino effect in Maryland politics.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) and U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) have already assembled political teams for Senate campaigns, and Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando (D) is also preparing to run. Others who are expected to consider the Senate race include U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8th), Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. (D), U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-3rd) and Ben Jealous, the party’s 2018 gubernatorial nominee who is currently executive director of the national Sierra Club.
National Republicans are likely to pressure former Gov. Larry Hogan to enter the Senate race, but he has expressed no interest in serving in the Senate in the past — though associates say he misses the political limelight since leaving office in mid-January and foregoing a 2024 White House bid.
The reality, though, is that unless Hogan is their nominee, Republicans will be heavy underdogs in the race to replace Cardin, especially in a presidential election year.
While Cardin’s longevity is remarkable, he has done consequential work throughout his career. While an unrepentant liberal, Cardin is soft-spoken, cerebral, and willing to work across the aisle — though he has become more caustic about Republicans since Donald Trump came on the political scene.
In the House of Delegates, Cardin rose to become chair of the Ways and Means Committee at the age of 31 and House speaker four years later. He pushed through property tax reform and school funding formula measures in Annapolis and also increased ethical standards for state elected officials.
In 1986, Cardin eyed the open-seat gubernatorial election, but like many ambitious politicians of that era, he deferred to William Donald Schaefer (D) when the voluble, colorful mayor of Baltimore decided to run for governor. Instead, Cardin set his sights on the U.S. House seat in the Baltimore area held by Barbara Mikulski (D) when Mikulski ran for U.S. Senate in 1986. He was elected easily.
Early in his U.S. House career, Cardin was assigned to the Ways and Means Committee, where he became steeped in tax policy and authored bipartisan legislation to expand retirement programs like 401k investment plans.
In 2005, when Paul Sarbanes (D), Maryland’s senior senator, announced that he would not be seeking a sixth term the following year, Cardin quickly jumped into the race to succeed him, narrowly winning the Democratic primary over Kweisi Mfume, his former House colleague, and then besting then-Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) in the general election by 10 points. At the time of Cardin’s election to the Senate, he was the longest-serving House member in U.S. history to move up to the Senate.
Cardin currently chairs the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, where he played an integral role in establishing the Paycheck Protection Program to help businesses and their workers through the worst of the pandemic’s economic slowdown. As a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Cardin is the No. 1 champion on Capitol Hill for protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and he has used his post on the Foreign Relations Committee to advocate for human rights across the globe.
Cardin’s political plans have been the object of intense speculation in Maryland and on Capitol Hill, but even as the general consensus among political professionals was that he would opt for retirement, he has shown no signs of slowing down. He led the recent unsuccessful fight in the Senate to extend the congressional deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, and he maintains a jam-packed schedule of events in Maryland. Immediately after his speech in Towson Monday, Cardin was scheduled to appear at two events in Montgomery County.
This breaking news story will be updated.
By Josh Kurtz