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Ben Cardin

Ben Cardin American politician

American politician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American politician
A.K.A. Benjamin Louis "Ben" Cardin
Countries United States of America
Occupations Politician Lawyer
Type Law Politics
Gender male
Birth 5 October 1943 (Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.)
Politics Democratic Party
Education University of Pittsburgh, University of Maryland School of Law
The details

Benjamin Louis Cardin (born October 5, 1943) is an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who serves as the senior United States Senator from Maryland, in office since 2007. Before his election to the Senate, Cardin, who has never lost an election, was a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Maryland's 3rd congressional district (1987–2007). He also served in the Maryland House of Delegates (1967–87), serving as Speaker (1979–87). He was the youngest Speaker in Maryland history.

Cardin was elected to succeed Paul Sarbanes in the 2006 U.S. Senate election, defeating Republican Michael Steele, the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, by a margin of 54% to 44%. He was re-elected in 2012 with 55% of the vote. He became the senior Senator on January 3, 2017 upon Barbara Mikulski's retirement.

Early life and career

Benjamin Louis Cardin was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Dora (née Green) and Meyer M. Cardin (1907–2005). The family name was originally "Kardonsky", before it was changed to "Cardin". Cardin's grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants. His grandfather operated a neighborhood grocery store that later turned into a wholesale food distribution company. His father, Meyer Cardin, served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1935 to 1937, and later sat on the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City from 1961 to 1977.

Cardin and his family attend the Modern Orthodox Beth Tfiloh Congregation near their home, with which the family has been affiliated for three generations. He graduated from Baltimore City College in 1961 and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude in 1964 from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. He earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1967, graduating first in his class. Cardin was admitted to the Maryland Bar that same year, and entered a private practice.

Political career

Maryland House of Delegates

Cardin served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1967 to 1986. First elected while still attending law school, he served in the seat once held by his uncle, Maurice Cardin, who had decided to not run for reelection so that his nephew could instead pursue the seat. He was chairman of the Ways & Means Committee from 1974 to 1979, then Speaker of the House until he left office. At age 35, he was one of the youngest Speakers in Maryland history. As Speaker, he was involved with reform efforts involving Maryland's property tax system, school financing formula, and ethical standards for elected officials.

U.S. House of Representatives

In 1986, with Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retiring Senator Charles Mathias, Cardin ran for Mikulski’s seat representing the 3rd Congressional District, which covered a large slice of inner Baltimore, as well as several close-in suburbs. Cardin won the Democratic nomination with 82 percent of the vote—the real contest in this heavily Democratic district. He won the general election with 79 percent of the vote against a perennial candidate, Republican Ross Z. Pierpont.

On the floor of the House on June 12, 2006, Rep. Cardin calls for the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq by 2007.

Cardin was reelected nine times, rarely facing serious opposition and even running unopposed in 1992. In the 2000 round of redistricting, his district was altered to add significant portions of Anne Arundel County, including the state capital of Annapolis. His last two opponents hailed from Anne Arundel and nearly carried the district's portion of that county.

In the House, Cardin was involved with fiscal issues, pension reform, and health care. His legislation to increase the amount individuals can store in their 401k plans and IRAs was passed in 2001. His bill to expand Medicare to include preventive benefits such as colorectal, prostate, mammogram, and osteoporosis screening was also enacted. He also authored legislation to provide a Medicare prescription drug benefit for chronic illnesses; fund graduate medical education; and guarantee coverage for emergency services.

Cardin has also advocated, via proposed legislation, welfare reform. His bill to increase education and support services for foster children between ages 18 and 21 was signed into law in 1999. He authored bills to expand child support, improve the welfare-to-work program, and increase the child care tax credit.

In 1998, Cardin was appointed Chairman of the Special Study Commission on Maryland Public Ethics Law by the Maryland General Assembly. In 1997, he co-chaired the Bipartisan Ethics Task Force in an effort to reform ethics procedures in the House of Representatives. He also held leadership positions on the Organization, Study and Review Committee and the Steering Committee of the House Democratic Caucus, and served as Senior Democratic Whip.

Cardin has been commended for his work with fiscal policy. He has been honored by Worth magazine and by Treasury and Risk Management for his work protecting retirement plans and government-supported medical care for the elderly. He has also received scores of 100% percent from the League of Conservation Voters and the NAACP, indicating stances that are in favor of environmental protection and civil rights. Cardin was also one of 133 members of Congress to vote against the 2002 Iraq Resolution.

Rep. Cardin (at podium) joins Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (center) (R-MD) and Jo Ann Davis (left) (R-VA) in calling for a study of homeland security needs of the National Capital region, including Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Committee assignments

As of May 2006, Cardin served on the following House committees:

  • Member of the Ways and Means Committee.
    • Ranking member of the Trade Subcommittee.
    • Member of the Human Resources Subcommittee.
  • Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

U.S. Senate

2006 election

On April 26, 2005, Cardin announced that he would seek the U.S. Senate seat of long-standing senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), following the announcement by Sarbanes that he would not be running for re-election in 2006. On September 12, 2006, Cardin faced a challenging primary battle with other Maryland Democrats, including Kweisi Mfume, Josh Rales, Dennis F. Rasmussen, and Allan Lichtman. Cardin won, however, with 44 percent of the vote, compared to 40 percent for Mfume, five percent for Rales, and two percent for Rasmussen. He was declared the winner after just two percent of the precincts had reported.

Cardin won election on November 7, 2006, defeating Republican challenger Michael Steele 54 percent to 44 percent. Cardin became the third consecutive Representative from Maryland's 3rd Congressional District to be elected Senator (following Sarbanes and Mikulski).

2012 election

Cardin ran for re-election to a second term in 2012. He turned back a primary challenge from State Senator C. Anthony Muse, defeating him 74% to 16%, with seven other candidates taking the remaining 10%.

In the general election, he faced Republican Dan Bongino, a former United States Secret Service agent, Independent Rob Sobhani, an economist and businessman, and Libertarian Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, President of the Minaret of Freedom Institute. Cardin easily won the election, taking 55% of the vote to Bongino's 27%, Sobhani's 17% and Ahmad's 1%.

Committee assignments

Cardin currently serves on the following Senate Committees in the 115th United States Congress:

  • Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
  • Committee on Environment and Public Works
    • Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety
    • Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife
    • Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Committee on Finance
    • Subcommittee on Health Care
    • Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight
  • Committee on Foreign Relations (Ranking Member)
    • Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy (Ex Officio)
    • Subcommittee on East Asia, The Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy (Ex Officio)
    • Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation (Ex Officio)
    • Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic, Energy and Environmental Policy (Ex Officio)
    • Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism (Ex Officio)
    • Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, International Operations and Bilateral International Development (Ex Officio)
    • Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women's Issues (Ex Officio)
  • Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Caucus membership

  • Senate Oceans Caucus
  • Senate Military Family Caucus
  • Senate Ukraine Caucus



  • Cardin was credited in April 2015 with facilitating, as the new Ranking Member, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 19-0 vote on the markup for the bill on the USA's involvement in the negotiations with Iran on nuclear technology. He had become ranking member only two weeks before, upon the departure of Senator Robert Menendez.

International experience

Cardin has been a Commissioner on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the U.S. Helsinki Commission) since 1993, serving as Ranking Member from 2003 to 2006. He subsequently served two terms as co-chair of the Commission, from 2007 to 2008, and 2011 to 2012; and also two terms as chair, from 2009 to 2010, and 2013 to 2014. From 2015 to 2016 he was again ranking member. In 2006 he was elected vice president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, and served through 2014.


Cardin testifying before the U.S. House Ways and Means subcommittee on Human Resources.

Cardin holds honorary degrees from several institutions, including the University of Baltimore School of Law (1990); University of Maryland, Baltimore (1993); Baltimore Hebrew University (1994); Goucher College (1996); and Villa Julie College (2007).

As of 2016 Cardin sits on the Board of Visitors of the University of Maryland School of Law, his law school alma mater.

From 1988 to 1995, he chaired the Maryland Legal Services Corp. Through much of his political career, he has continued to work with law policy.

From 1988 to 1999, Cardin served on the St. Mary's College of Maryland Board of Trustees, and in 2002, he was appointed to the St. Mary's Advisory Board for the Study of Democracy. In 1999, he was appointed to the Goucher College Board of Trustees.


On a list by Congressional Quarterly of the members of Congress who were most supportive of President Barack Obama's legislative agenda in 2009, Cardin was tied for fifth most supportive Senator with five other Senators. In 2013, National Journal rated him as tied with six other Democratic senators for fifth most liberal Senator.

Cardin supports Net Neutrality, as shown by his vote during the 109th Congress in favor of the Markey Amendment to H.R. 5252 which would add Net Neutrality provisions to the federal telecommunications code. Cardin also supports Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which gives DOJ the tools to target those site owners who are engaged in illegal digital piracy.

In 2007, Cardin supported the United States Public Service Academy Act. The Act would serve to create "an undergraduate institution devoted to developing civilian leaders." Like the Military Academies, this would give students 4 years of tuition-free education in exchange for 5 years of public service upon graduation.

Cardin has often supported positions taken by Israeli governments. He supported civilian nuclear cooperation with India.

In November 2011, Cardin's intended update of the 1917 Espionage Act upset some public disclosure advocates. They complained that it "would make it harder for federal employees to expose government fraud and abuse."

Cardin is opposed to eliminating the tax loophole for charitable deductions and supports raising taxes on higher income earners. During a December 20, 2012, interview with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC, Cardin stated, "We're now a few days away from Christmas. The easiest way to get the revenues is to get the rates from the higher income, uh, taxpayers." In response to the question, "Are you prepared to vote to limit the loophole of charitable deductions?" Cardin responded, "No."

Liberal environmentalists criticized Cardin for compromising too much while working with conservative James Inhofe on an amendment to Cardin's Chesapeake Bay legislation. Josh Saks, senior legislative representative for water resources campaigns with the National Wildlife Federation, praised Cardin as "the lead voice for clean water and the restoration of America's great waters in Congress."

In the 111th Congress, Cardin helped secure dental benefits in the State Children's Health Insurance Plan.

Weeks after the 2014 Hong Kong class boycott campaign and Umbrella Movement broke out which demands genuine universal suffrage among other goals, Cardin among bipartisan colleagues joined U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and Rep. Chris Smith's effort to introduce Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act which would update the United States–Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and U.S. commitment to Hong Kong's freedom and democracy. "Civil society and democratic freedoms are under attack around the world and Hong Kong is on the front lines. The United States has a responsibility to protect human rights and defend against these threats," Cardin, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee said.

Personal life

Cardin married high school sweetheart Myrna Edelman, a teacher, on November 24, 1964. They have a daughter, Deborah. Their son Michael committed suicide on March 24, 1998 at age 30. He has a granddaughter named Julia.

In 2002, Ben’s 32-year-old nephew, Jon S. Cardin, who graduated from University of Maryland law school in 2001, ran for election as a Delegate representing District 11 of western Baltimore County. With state legislative District 11 overlapping Congressional District 3, there were two Cardins on the ticket in this area in 2002. Present at Jon’s swearing in was the oldest living former member of the House of Delegates at 95 years of age, Meyer Cardin, Jon’s grandfather and Ben’s father. Also in attendance was Ben himself, who stated, "The next generation's taking over." After Ben announced that he would vacate his Congressional seat to run for the U.S. Senate, Jon Cardin stated that he was exploring a campaign for his uncle's Congressional seat, though he ultimately decided to seek reelection to the House of Delegates.

Volunteer service

For many years Cardin served on the Board of Trustees for St. Mary's College of Maryland. He was very active on the board and also played key roles in the establishment of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the college, where he also served on the advisory board.

Election history

Maryland's 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary election, 1986
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin 69,980 82%
Democratic Edward Ellison, Jr. 4,422 5%
Democratic John Ascher 4,085 5%
Democratic Earl Koger, Sr. 3,714 4%
Democratic Robert Lewis 2,968 3%
Maryland's 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary election, 1988
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin (inc.) 52,850 86%
Democratic Charles Walker 8,451 14%
Maryland's 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary election, 1990
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin (inc.) 43,496 83%
Democratic Martin Glaser 8,788 17%
Maryland's 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary election, 1992
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin (inc.) 63,793 84%
Democratic Carl Mueller 11,707 16%
Maryland's 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary election, 1994
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin (inc.) 64,742 87%
Democratic Dan Hiegel 9,987 13%
Maryland's 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin (inc.) 34,496 90%
Democratic Dan Hiegel 3,720 10%
Maryland's 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin (inc.) 50,240 90%
Democratic Dan Hiegel 5,856 10%
Maryland's 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin (inc.) 62,938 90%
Democratic John Rea 6,986 10%
Maryland's 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin (inc.) 54,398 90%
Democratic John Rea 6,163 10%
U.S. Senate Democratic Primary election in Maryland, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin 257,545 44%
Democratic Kweisi Mfume 238,957 41%
Democratic Josh Rales 30,737 5%
Democratic Dennis Rasmussen 10,997 2%
Democratic Mike Schaefer 7,773 1%
Democratic Allan Lichtman 6,919 1%
Democratic Theresa Scaldaferri 5,081 1%
Democratic James Hutchinson 4,949 1%
Democratic David Dickerson 3,950 1%
Democratic Robert Kaufman 3,908 1%
Democratic Anthony Jaworski 3,486 1%
Democratic Thomas McCaskill 3,459 1%
Democratic George English 2,305 <1%
Democratic Bob Robinson 2,208 <1%
Democratic Lih Young 2,039 <1%
Democratic Blaine Turner 1,848 <1%
Democratic Joseph Werner 1,832 <1%
Democratic Charles Ulysses Smith 1,702 <1%
U.S. Senate Democratic Primary election in Maryland, 2012
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Ben Cardin (inc.) 240,704 74%
Democratic Anthony Muse 50,807 16%
Democratic Chris Garner 9,274 3%
Democratic Raymond Levi Blagmon 5,909 2%
Democratic J. P. Cusick 4,778 2%
Democratic Blaine Taylor 4,376 1%
Democratic Lih Young 3,993 1%
Democratic Ralph Jaffe 3,313 1%
Democratic Ed Tinus 1,064 <1%
Year Office Election Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1986 Congress, MD-3 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 100,161 79.11% Ross Pierpont Republican 26,452 20.89%
1988 Congress, MD-3 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 133,779 72.9% Ross Pierpont Republican 49,733 27.1%
1990 Congress, MD-3 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 82,545 69.73% Harwood Nichols Republican 35,841 30.27%
1992 Congress, MD-3 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 163,354 99.98% Unopposed
1994 Congress, MD-3 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 117,269 70.97% Robert Tousey Republican 47,966 29.03%
1996 Congress, MD-3 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 130,204 67.31% Patrick McDonough Republican 63,229 32.69%
1998 Congress, MD-3 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 137,501 77.61% Colin Harby Republican 39,667 22.39%
2000 Congress, MD-3 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 169,347 75.66% Colin Harby Republican 53,827 24.05% Joseph Pomykala Libertarian 238
2002 Congress, MD-3 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 145,589 65.72% Scott Conwell Republican 75,721 34.18%
2004 Congress, MD-3 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 182,066 63.39% Bob Duckworth Republican 97,008 33.77% Patsy Allen Green 4,224 2.75%
2006 MD Senator, Class 1 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 965,567 54.20% Michael S. Steele Republican 787,352 44.20% Kevin Zeese Green 27,570 1.55%
2012 MD Senator, Class 1 General Benjamin Cardin Democratic 1,474,028 56.0% Dan Bongino Republican 693,291 26.3% S. Rob Sobhani Independent 430,934 16.4%
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