(Updates with Cardin comment and Alsobrooks considering a run.)
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Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat known for seeking out Republican partners over more than five decades of legislating, said he won’t seek re-election in 2024.
“It is time, and when this term ends, it will be my last years as an elected official,” Cardin, 79, said in a video Monday. “I will not seek re-election. Thank you, Marylanders — thank you for giving me the opportunity of my life to represent you in the United States Senate.”
Cardin disclosed his long-anticipated retirement plans to the Baltimore Sun in a story published earlier Monday.
His decision to retire after 18 years in the chamber creates a rare open-seat race in Maryland, a Democratic bastion where Republicans last won a Senate election in 1980. It also may provide an opportunity to boost Black representation in the Senate, which has just three Black members, none of whom are women.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D), who’s Black, is “seriously considering” a bid for Cardin’s seat and plans to spend the “next couple of weeks” speaking with family, friends, and supporters, according to a source close to Alsobrooks.
Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) has also been preparing for a potential run. Both have hired campaign staff with national experience, Maryland Matters reported.
Cardin’s departure also will mean passing the baton on human rights issues. He’s a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the co-chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission.
Among Cardin’s human rights measures was a Russia-focused anti-corruption law, the 2012 Magnitsky Act (Public Law 112-208), which he and John McCain (R-Ariz.) shepherded, and a 2016 sanctions law (Public Law 114-328) on which Cardin collaborated with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
He also had a 20-year partnership with former Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who shared an interest in retirement policy. Their SECURE 2.0 Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law as part of the fiscal 2023 omnibus spending package (Public Law 117-328), expanded retirement coverage through automatic enrollment and emergency savings.
“For decades, one of my passions has been working to find reasonable ways to encourage more Americans to save more for their future,” Cardin wrote in one of his “Letters from Ben” to Maryland constituents.
He’s chair of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, which oversees the Small Business Administration. As the committee’s ranking member in the 116th Congress, he worked with then-chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on the Paycheck Protection Program that helped small businesses keep workers on the payroll during the Covid-19 crisis.
“Helping small business through this pandemic — their survival depended upon Democrats and Republicans working together, and I was proud to be one of the leaders to make that a reality,” Cardin said.
State House Speaker
Cardin was born and raised in Baltimore. He was elected to Maryland’s House of Delegates in 1966 at age 23, before he graduated first in his class from the University of Maryland’s law school. Cardin became the state House speaker in late 1978, at age 35.
In 1986, he was elected to a Baltimore-area US House seat Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) gave up to run successfully for the Senate. He spent 20 years in the House, most of it as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax and trade policy.
In 2006, when 30-year Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D) declined to defend his seat, Cardin narrowly won the Democratic primary over Kweisi Mfume, then a former House member and NAACP leader who’s since returned to serve in the chamber. Cardin won the general election by 10 percentage points over Republican Michael Steele, then Maryland’s lieutenant governor. Cardin was easily re-elected in 2012 and 2018.
With assistance from Zach C. Cohen
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at email@example.com