COLLEGE PARK – Republican challenger Scott Conwell thinks he has areal chance of unseating Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore, in theheavily redrawn 3rd District.
“Forty-five percent of the district is new for Cardin, they have never voted for him,” said Bill Moulds, political adviser for the Conwellcampaign.
But 100 percent of the voters are new to Conwell, whom even fellow Republicans said they were not familiar with.
“It’s going to be very difficult for Conwell,” because Cardin in entrenched in his seat, said state Sen. Robert Kittleman, R-Howard. Still,he said he was glad that Conwell was running Cardin, because “everybodyshould be challenged.”
Conwell has been conducting a low-cost, grass-roots campaign thissummer, aimed at getting out in the district to shake hands, pass outfliers and buttons and meet the people face to face.
But Cardin is not taking the race for granted, said campaignofficials, particularly since it was redistricted this year to includeparts of Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties.
“The 3rd congressional district has been reshaped drastically as aresult of the recent redistricting and the congressman has been busyintroducing himself to his new district,” said Jamie Fontaine, hiscampaign manager.
Cardin has the luxury of a $567,106 campaign war chest, according tothe latest filings with the Federal Election Commission data.
The majority of Cardin’s contributions have come from political action committees, accounting for $364,457 or 64 percent of his totalcontributions. Health care concerns — the eight-term House member saysin campaign literature that he has been “a leading Democratic voice onhealth care policy” — contributed $83,500, while the finance andinsurance industry gave $82,106 and organized labor chipped in with$68,350, according to FECInfo.com, an independent campaign finance website.
By contrast, Cardin’s three challengers — one Democrat and two Republicans — have yet to raise the minimum $5,000 that requires an FECfiling.
Conwell believes that the money will not predict the winner in thisrace.
“It shouldn’t be about the money, it should be about the people andthe vote,” Moulds said.
He said the Conwell campaign does not need a half-million dollars to present a real challenge to Cardin. But he and Conwell conceded that theywill have to raise some money. They are planning two large fund raisers,one at the end of August and “a big one at the end of September,” thatthey hope will give them a big push before the elections.
Fontaine said the Cardin campaign is not taking any challenger forgranted and, with the added challenge of redistricting, the campaign hasbeen “raising funds accordingly.”
But pollsters say Cardin need not worry.
Carol Arscott of Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications, said shedid not even know who was running against Cardin, and went on to say thatshe does not believe redistricting will hurt him.
“The best chance any Republican has at winning Cardin’s seat would bewhen he retires, and it would still be difficult, but possible,” Arscottsaid.
Larry Harris, a principal with Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc.said his firm has not conducted any polls in the 3rd district.
“Ben Cardin is a shoo-in, I’ve never heard of Scott Conwell,” Harrissaid.
Conwell is not listening to the conventional wisdom. He said he isgetting “great response” from the people he is meeting on the campaigntrail. He predicted the race would heat up after the primary.
“This is a real race,” he said.