Rep. Cardin Wins Maryland Democratic Senate Nomination

Rep. Ben Cardin, a long-serving House member who voted against the war in Iraq, won the Democratic nomination to replace Maryland's retiring Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes.

Cardin edged out his closest competitor, former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, and 16 other candidates with 93 percent of the precincts reporting.

Cardin will face Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele in November.

"I know that we are united," Cardin told The Associated Press Wednesday. "We (he and Mfume) 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."

The results trickled in late overnight after several mishaps at primary poll locations. A Montgomery County judge ordered polls in the county to stay open an hour later after human errors with electronic voting machines caused problems and forced some to leave the polls without voting.

Earlier Wednesday, Mfume stopped short of conceding the race, but he acknowledged that victory was unlikely and said Cardin would "be a damn good senator representing the state of Maryland, absolutely."

With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Cardin had 225,439 votes against Mfume's 185,580. Mfume maintained a substantial lead in Prince George's County, with 60 percent of those precincts reporting.

Steele, former head of the state GOP, was the first black candidate elected statewide here and has attracted national attention from Republicans. He spoke at the 2004 GOP convention and has played to host to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney at fundraisers.

Steele faced little-known challengers Tuesday and cruised to victory with 87 percent of the Republican vote. If he wins in the November general election, the U.S. will have two black members in the Senate for the first time. Current Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is only the fifth black U.S. senator in history.

It was an amicable race between Cardin, who is white, and Mfume, who served with him in Congress, with neither man criticizing the other and both voicing support for troop withdrawal from Iraq and universal health insurance.

Several Democrats interviewed Tuesday said they chose Cardin over Mfume because of Cardin's vote against the war in Iraq. Sarbanes also voted against the war; Mfume wasn't in Congress at the time, leaving his House seat in 1996 to lead the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Cardin "voted against the Iraq war when a lot of people wouldn't go against George Bush and that means a lot to me because I don't believe we should be in that war," said Diane Stahl, 50, a Democratic voter in Hagerstown.

Some voters also said they thought Cardin had a better chance than Mfume of beating Steele in November. Mfume has been frank about his checkered past: he had five sons out of wedlock as a teenager and joined a gang, an experience he said taught him the importance of education and self-betterment. Some polls showed Mfume doing worse than Cardin against Steele.

Voter Connie Harold of Annapolis said Cardin seemed the more sensible pick for a showdown against Steele. A former speaker of the state House, Cardin is known to many Maryland voters despite his reserved style.

"I want somebody who can win," Harold said.