Monday, September 11, 2006

Cardin for Senate -- When I vote, I usually have strong opinions to vote for one candidate or another, and I'm usually clear on why. The race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator from Maryland is different, because I have strong opinions about why I should vote for each candidate. In the end, I think I will vote for Ben Cardin, but I don't think Democrats would go wrong voting for either candidate.

In Kweisi Mfume's case, I think he would be a strong voice in the Senate for progressive causes, and the Senate would benefit from having a Senator of his, as Mfume put it, "ilk." Barack Obama may be a senator for the ages, but there's no reason why there should only be one African-American senator, or even only two should Harold Ford, Jr. win the seat in Tennessee. The former NAACP chairman, Mfume would be an articulate voice representing urban blacks in a way others cannot - because he grew up on the mean streets. The importance of that should not be underestimated.

Cardin, though grew up in Baltimore, too. He knows the needs of the city, and he understands the suburban and rural residents in his disparate district that covers parts of three counties. In the House, Cardin had earned the respect of his colleagues. Though he hasn't been the most forceful advocate, he has made an impression for his seriousness and dedication in mastering difficult policy areas. He will bring measured professionalism and great expertise to the position. In a Senate that will be closely split, regardless of which party ends up in control, Cardin's civility may prove more useful than Mfume's stridence and declared passion.

Each candidate would bring different strengths and challenges as the Democratic nominee. If Mfume is the nominee, the Republican, Michael Steele, will raise questions about his character -- and alleged disrespectful treatment of women. With Mfume, though, Steele cannot appeal to blacks based on racial solidarity, splitting the traditional Democratic vote. Ultimately, I cannot support Mfume on that basis. Many blacks have already expressed support for Cardin. I hope that would carry over into the general election.

Cardin will likely appeal to more independents, perhaps even more Republicans, who will distrust Mfume's record as a zealous proponent of traditional liberal causes. For all that, Cardin can be counted on to make the right vote, when it counts. He cannot be easily pinned with a label. He did not go along with the Congressional majority that authorized the President to start a war that would put the United States on the wrong side of international law and international opinion. Yet, Cardin has shown hinmself to be a rational voice in an era of fiscal insanity. He has been highly critical of the huge deficits that the Republican-controlled government has created.

Perhaps, finally, I could choose to support Cardin, in part, because he's a nice, smart Jewish guy from Baltimore. There are probably worse reasons to support a candidate, but it's not enough for me. I choose to support Ben Cardin for United States Senator from Maryland because he will be a fine representative for the people of Maryland. I believe he can win what may prove to be a close race, and I believe he will bring thoughtfulness and and the ability to reach out across the aisle to craft sensible policies in a Senate that could use someone like that.

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