Maryland Senate Dem hopeful takes on Cardin, AIPAC, NRA, gun march

segal cardin

Jerry Segal is challenging Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin in the state's Democratic primary.  (Segal for Senate and Cardin for Senate)

A first-time candidate is launch a quixotic bid to unseat Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin in which he also intends to “fundamentally realign” party politics by taking aim at the recent March for Our Lives rallies and the powerful AIPAC lobby group -- while also trying to make a deal with the NRA.

Candidate Jerome “Jerry” Segal -- who has dubbed his long-shot Senate bid “Ben or Jerry?” -- was initially moved by the rallies, saying he “cried like a baby” over the Florida high school shooting last month in which 17 people died and that became a driving force behind the march.

The 74-year-old put $50,000 of savings into renting a U-Haul and making t-shirts and 500,000 leaflets that he and helpers handed out Saturday at the Washington rally. However, Segal said he left the march feeling “frustrated” about the event’s myopic message and after trying unsuccessfully for weeks to contact organizers.

“I totally get the students’ point, but this is a defining moment against gun violence. We missed an opportunity,” Segal said Monday while returning the U-Haul.

In what he’s calling a “friendly critique” of the march, Segal thinks the focus should have gone beyond the fear of “mostly white middle-class students,” after recent school and concert shootings, to address the daily fears of gun violence of children living in inner cities, like Baltimore or Chicago.

"I wanted people to leave the march with a broader understanding of what they were marching for,” said Segal, a semi-retired college researcher with a combine 14 years on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch.

He’s proposing a July and August sleep-away camp for inner-city children from the 10 most dangerous U.S. cities -- with the National Rifle Association paying the bill.

"They would love to be on the right side of this, so long as you don't touch their guns,” said Segal, who argues that the summer getaways would at least take those children off the streets for 16 percent of the year. “Here's one policy step (the NRA) can run with." 

As a Democratic incumbent in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican senator since 1980, Cardin, 74, is the likely frontrunner in the party primary and general election.

The Democratic field right now has at least eight candidates including Chelsea Manning, the former Army solider convicted in 2013 by a military court of espionage and other offenses in connection with disclosing government-related documents to WikiLeaks.

Former President Barack Obama commuted Manning’ sentence in 2017, after she served roughly seven years in confinement, following her 2010 arrest.

“Siegel has no path to victory,” Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the Cook Political Report, said Wednesday. “Even if there is any anti-Cardin sentiment out there, there are too many other candidates in the primary.”

Segal, nevertheless, has decided upon a campaign that goes directly at Cardin and his connections to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its related “pro-Israel” political action committees and other, similar contributors to political campaigns and candidates.

Cardin has raised $3.4 million so far this election cycle, with the so-called pro-Israel groups listed among his biggest industry contributors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. One such group, NorPAC, has since Cardin first became a senator, in 2013, been his top contributor, the site shows.

Segal, a philosopher who in the late-1980s founded the Jewish Peace Lobby as a counterpoint to AIPAC, said he’s going to “end Cardin’s career” over his connection to AIPAC, while “changing the institution forever.”

He argues that even a good showing will give future candidates hope they can win against big money in politics.

“Israel is not a voting issue for a vast majority of primary voters,” also said Duffy, whose non-partisan firm lists Cardin’s seat as “solid Democrat.”   

Cardin campaign spokesman Sue Walitsky said Wednesday that the two-term senator and former House member is “confident” about winning reelection “based on conversations with voters across the state.”

She also said there is a “great enthusiasm” among voters, especially Democrats, this election cycle to have their voices heard.

“Senator Cardin is talking about what he’s accomplished and the work that still needs to be done,” also said Walitsky, citing the senator’s efforts to restore and preserve funding for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed as well as continuing to close the gap between “those who have and those who have less.”