By ROBERT BAIRD
WASHINGTON -(January 15, 2012)—Eighteen candidates—eight Democrats and 10 Republicans—emerged to challenge incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., by this week's primary election filing deadline.
Cardin, 68, a relatively popular incumbent, was elected in 2006 after a long career in both Annapolis and Washington. He has been vocal in the Senate on environmental and fiscal issues.
State Sen. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George's, and former Secret Service Agent Daniel Bongino are among the more prominent candidates in the hunt.
Cardin faces eight opponents for the Democratic primary: Raymond Blagmon of Upper Marlboro, J.P. Cusick of Hollywood, Chris Garner of Severna Park, Ralph Jaffe of Baltimore, Blaine Taylor of Joppa, Ed Tinus of Whaleyville, Lih Young of Rockville and Muse.
Ten candidates have filed for the Republican nomination: Joseph Alexander of Harford County, Daniel Bongino of Severna Park, Robert Broadus of Clinton, William Capps Jr. of Laurel, Richard Douglas of Bladensburg, Rick Hoover of Glen Burnie, David Jones of Baltimore, John Kimble of Beltsville, Brian Vaeth of Baltimore and Corrogan Vaughn of Baltimore.
Cardin has already collected $2.4 million this election cycle through the end of September 2011, according to the Federal Election Commission. No other candidate even comes close to his totals. He also has a long record as a Maryland legislator and congressman.
"Cardin has been a champion for federal employees and he's brought a lot of money in for transportation upgrades," said Sue Walitsky, Cardin's national communications director. A recent Gonzales Poll says over a third of GOP voters would consider voting for Cardin.
One of the better known candidates considering a run, decided to bow out. Eric Wargotz withdrew from the race this week, citing a lack of campaign funds. Wargotz, who ran against Sen. Barbara Mikulski in the 2010 race, said Maryland senators have displayed a lack of leadership on The Hill.
"Cardin and Mikulski both have a history of not wanting to upset the apple cart or take a position," Wargotz said.
Michael Cain, director of the Center for Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College, said Muse's challenge is the greatest threat to Cardin. But Cain said Muse, a state senator and Prince George's County pastor, faces an uphill battle.
"He may have a lot of support in Prince George's County, but that's not the only place you have to win," he said.
Cain said he thinks the real challenge for Cardin lies in the primaries, but that he would have no trouble winning the general election if nominated.
"I'd be real surprised if the Republicans put a whole lot of money into (Maryland), I just don't see it happening," he said.
Key Democrats have already thrown their support behind Cardin, including President Obama. Of the 33 Senators up for re-election, 21 are sitting Democrats.
The primaries are on April 3.