WASHINGTON – A battle that started as a competition between gentlemen concluded with the same polite tone, when Rep. Ben Cardin won the Democratic U.S Senate nomination over his opponent, former congressman Kweisi Mfume, Tuesday night.
Praising each other in victory and defeat, as they did during their campaigns, both candidates managed to strike a friendly tone that should help Cardin retain Mfume’s supporters when he faces Lt. Gov. Michael Steele in November’s general election.
Cardin had 44 percent and Mfume 40 percent, with 97 percent of precincts reporting at 6 p.m., according to the Associated Press. There was a difference of more than 22,000 votes between them.
As the results solidified Cardin’s victory over Mfume early Wednesday morning, the two frontrunners had a conversation.
“They spoke to each other before they gave their speeches,” said Oren Shur, Cardin’s press secretary. “Cardin and Mfume have been good friends for 20 years,” he added. “That’s one of the reasons our primary was conducted in such a civilized way.”
Mfume gave his speech around 1:30 am, and Cardin gave his minutes later. Mfume was not ready to concede defeat, but kept the same conciliatory tone when he referred to Cardin.
“It’s how you finish — and we’re not finished!” he said. But he admitted that victory was unlikely and said that Cardin would “be a damn good senator representing the state of Maryland.”
“I know that we are united,” Cardin told The Associated Press. “We ran a campaign that wasn’t about our election; it was about November’s election. We need to change the direction of the country. We had two people running who shared the same commitment.”
On the Republican side, Steele had only light competition and accumulated more than 85 percent of the vote. He wasted no time beginning his general election campaign, launching his “Steele Wheels for Change Bus Tour” in Baltimore Wednesday morning.
It is the first time in 30 years that Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat is open with the retirement of Sen. Paul Sarbanes.
But the Sarbanes family is not out of politics in the state. The senator’s son, John, emerged victorious in the hotly contested 3rd Congressional District, a seat left vacant by Cardin’s run for Senate.
The state’s other hot congressional primary was still undecided Wednesday evening. In the 4th District, Democratic Rep. Al Wynn was holding 50 percent of the vote to 46 percent for community activist and lawyer Donna Edwards, with 95 percent of the vote counted.
Other districts’ results brought few surprises: Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer, Christopher Van Hollen Jr., and Elijah Cummings, as well as Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, won without primary opposition. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger easily won his primary, and will face Republican Jimmy Mathis in November. Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett won with almost 80 percent; he will face Democrat Andrew Duck.
The young Sarbanes’ race was among the state’s most contested. He beat state Sen. Paula Hollinger and former Baltimore Health Commissioner Peter L. Beilenson, with 32 percent of the vote.
The 3rd District Republican primary, too close to call Tuesday night, wore into mid-day Wednesday, with John White, CEO of an Annapolis-based marketing company, narrowly leading physician Gary Applebaum by about 1,200 votes, with 95 percent of the precincts reporting.
Sarbanes’ chances in the general election look good, considering the last Republican to win the 3rd District was John Boynton Philip Clayton Hill — who left office in 1927.
It appears that Hoyer, in the 5th District and the state’s highest-ranking House member, actually won his 14th term with Tuesday’s primary: He ran unopposed and has no Republican challenger in November.
“Maryland Democrats turned out to demand a new direction for our state and our nation,” Hoyer said in a statement Wednesday. “We are blessed with an experienced, diverse, and talented ticket that will work for all Maryland families when elected in November.”
With 98 percent of the precincts reporting, Bartlett won easily in the 6th District Republican race, winning 79 percent of the vote to challenger Joseph T. Krysztoforski’s 21 percent.
“I am gratified by the overwhelming support of Republican voters in the 6th District,” Bartlett said, pledging to “spend the taxpayer’s money as frugally as I spend my own” and support border security, the war on terror and energy efficiency.
Trouncing opponent Deborah A. Vollmer, Democratic Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. won 92 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Van Hollen is seeking a third term representing the 8th District, which covers parts of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. He faces Republican Jeffrey Stein in November.
“I appreciate the vote of confidence and support, and will do my best to continue to uphold that trust,” Van Hollen said.
— CNS reporters Karine Abalyan, Brianna L. Bond, Emily Haile, Alia Malik and Joe Palazzolo contributed to this article.