This story contains corrected information.
WASHINGTON-Monday night’s storm canceled the final senatorial debates but that did not stop independent candidate Rob Sobhani from holding a news conference Thursday to deliver the closing remarks of his campaign.
He summed up his platform to a small group of reporters in front of the Capitol saying that he will work to encourage bipartisanship and foreign investment in Maryland.
He criticized incumbent U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, for being too beholden to his party.
“Senator Cardin has voted 98 percent with his party and I believe that the American people and the people of Maryland deserve to have elected officials who work on both sides of the aisle.” Sobhani said.
But the two major-party candidates, Cardin and Republican Dan Bongino, made sure that Sobhani didn’t get the last word.
Cardin spokeswoman Sue Walitsky said in an email that Cardin’s campaign is based on his “ability to work across party lines,” and she offered newspaper editorials in support of his work on bipartisan projects such as the Bowles-Simpson budget blueprint, aimed at reducing the national debt.
Walitsky also took on Sobhani’s plan to reach out to global non-profit organizations for cancer research and infrastructure projects.
Foreign investment is important, she said, but, “We should not encourage investments that could make us beholden to foreign interests who may not share our values; and such foreign investments should not be a substitute for Americans’ ability to invest in our own neighborhoods and communities.”
Republican challenger Dan Bongino called Sobhani’s plan vague.
“He has this billion-dollar plan but no one’s asking the basic question: Where is this money coming from?”
Sobhani touted the fact that his campaign is almost entirely self-financed. By mid-October, he had put $6.4 million of his own money into the race, according to the FEC.
“I believe that by (using) my own resources, I am the independent candidate in this race,” Sobhani said. He then criticized Cardin and Bongino for accepting special interest money, a claim Bongino strongly denies.
“My financing is publicly available to anyone who wants to check it. …We’re not funded by PACs,” Bongino said. Campaign finance records show that about 3 percent of his campaign’s funding came from PAC contributions.
Cardin had accepted $18,550 from a PAC promoting U.S.-Israel relations and $20,813 from Actblue, a PAC that lets people donate directly to candidates through their website. Around 37 percent of his funding came from PACs.
Overall, Cardin raised $5.4 million and Bongino collected $1.5 million, giving Sobhani the financial advantage, although that has not translated into an edge at the polls.
An Opinionworks poll from Oct. 23 poll shows Cardin with 50 percent of the vote, Bongino with 24 percent of the vote and Sobhani with 14 percent of the vote.
The polling shows Sobhani has made the race tighter for Bongino by siphoning off moderate votes that may have gone to him.
“He is splitting the vote. It’s a shame. We have a legitimate shot to defeat Senator Cardin,” Bongino said.
However, Bongino was not concerned about the split vote because he said more Republicans are growing wary of Sobhani, and he is confident that he can reach out to independents.
“The more he’s spent the less percentage of the vote he gets,” he said.
Sobhani, in response to a question, said he was not concerned about ensuring a Cardin win by diluting GOP votes.
“My race is a question of principle. I’m doing this because I truly believe that both political parties have let the American people down. This $50 trillion debt wasn’t accumulated by Democrats. It was also accumulated by Republicans.”
Sobhani said he is less concerned about who wins the Senate seat than he is about setting a precedent for bipartisan cooperation.
“I hope that this will be the beginning of a trend. A trend to put our country first, put our partisan politics aside and work together.”