Benjamin Louis "Ben" Cardin (born October 5, 1943) is the junior United States Senator from Maryland and a member of the Democratic Party. Before his election to the Senate, Cardin was a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Maryland's 3rd congressional district from 1987 to 2007. Cardin was elected to succeed Paul Sarbanes in the 2006 U.S. Senate election, defeating Republican challenger Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele by a margin of 54%-44%.
Cardin was born in Baltimore, Maryland to Meyer (1907–2005) and Dora (née Green) Cardin. The family name was originally Kardonsky before it was changed to Cardin by Cardin's paternal grandparents, Russian Jewish immigrants. His grandfather operated a neighborhood grocery store that later turned into a wholesale food distribution company. His father, Meyer Cardin served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1935 to 1937, and later sat on the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City from 1961 to 1977.Cardin and his family attend the Modern Orthodox Beth Tfiloh Congregation near their home, with which the family has been affiliated for three generations. He graduated from Baltimore City College in 1961 and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude in 1964 from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. He earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1967, graduating first in his class. Cardin was admitted to the Maryland Bar that same year, and entered a private practice.
Cardin served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1967 to 1986. First elected while still attending law school,he served in the seat once held by his uncle, Maurice Cardin, who had decided to not run for re-election so that his nephew could instead pursue the seat. Speaker of the House until he left office. At age 35, he was one of the youngest Speakers in Maryland history. As Speaker, he was involved with reform efforts involving Maryland's property tax system, the school financing formula and the ethical standards for elected officials.
He was chairman of the Ways & Means Committee from 1974 to 1979, and after that
In 1986, with then-Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retiring Senator Charles Mathias, Cardin ran for Mikulski’s seat representing the 3rd Congressional District. Cardin won the Democratic nomination with 82 percent of the vote and became Congressman in the general election with 79 percent of the vote against a perennial candidate, RepublicanRoss Z. Pierpont. Cardin was reelected nine times, rarely facing serious opposition. In the 2000 round of redistricting, his district was altered to add significant portions of Anne Arundel County, including the state capitol of Annapolis, to his Baltimore-based district. His last two opponents hailed from Anne Arundel and nearly carried the district's portion of that county. In the House, Cardin was involved with fiscal issues, pension reform, and health care. His legislation to increase the amount people can store in their 401k plans and IRAs was passed in 2001. His bill to expand Medicare to include preventive benefits such as colorectal, prostate, mammogram, and osteoporosis screening was also enacted. He also authored legislation to provide a Medicare prescription drug benefit for chronic illnesses; fund graduate medical education; and guarantee coverage for emergency services.Cardin has also advocated, via proposed legislation, welfare reform. His bill to increase education and support services for foster care children between ages 18 and 21 was signed into law in 1999. He authored bills to expand child support, improve the welfare-to-work program, and increase the child care tax credit.In 1998, Cardin was appointed Chairman of the Special Study Commission on Maryland Public Ethics Law by the Maryland General Assembly. In 1997, he co-chaired the Bipartisan Ethics Task Force in an effort to reform ethics procedures in the House of Representatives. He also held leadership positions on the Organization, Study and Review Committee and the Steering Committee of the Democratic Caucus and served as Senior Democratic Whip. Cardin has been commended for his work with fiscal policy. He has been honored by Worth Magazine and by Treasury and Risk Management for his work protecting retirement plans and government-support medical care for the elderly. He has also received scores of 100 percent from the League of Conservation Voters and NAACP indicating stances that are in favor of environmental protection and civil rights. He was also one of the 133 members of Congress to vote against the Iraq Resolution.
As of May 2006, Cardin served on the following House committees:
- Member of the Ways and Means Committee.
- Ranking member of the Trade Subcommittee.
- Member of the Human Resources Subcommittee.
- Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
On April 26, 2005, Cardin announced that he would seek the U.S. Senate seat of current long-standing senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), following the announcement by Sarbanes that he would not be running for re-election in 2006. On September 12, 2006, Cardin faced a challenging primary battle with other Maryland Democrats, including Kweisi Mfume, Josh Rales, Dennis F. Rasmussen, and Allan Lichtman. Cardin won, however, with 44 percent of the vote, compared to 40 percent for Mfume, five percent for Rales, and two percent for Rasmussen. He was declared the winner just after two percent of the precincts reporting. Cardin won election on November 7, 2006, defeating Republican challenger Michael S. Steele 54 percent to 44 percent. Cardin became the third consecutive Representative from Maryland's 3rd Congressional District to be elected Senator (following Sarbanes and Mikulski).
Cardin has been a Commissioner on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the U.S. Helsinki Commission) since 1993, serving as Ranking Member from 2003 to 2006. In the 110th Congress, he was appointed co-chairman of the Commission, and is currently Vice President of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly.
Cardin holds honorary degrees from several institutions, including the University of Baltimore School of Law (1990); University of Maryland, Baltimore (1993); Baltimore Hebrew University (1994); and Goucher College (1996). From 1988 to 1995, he chaired the Maryland Legal Services Corp. Through much of his political career, he has continued to work with law policy. From 1988 to 1999, Cardin served on the St. Mary's College of Maryland Board of Trustees, and in 2002, he was appointed to the St. Mary's Advisory Board for the Study of Democracy. In 1999, he was appointed to the Goucher College Board of Trustees.
Cardin married high school sweetheart Myrna Edelman, a teacher,on November 24, 1964. They have a daughter, Deborah. Their son Michael committed suicide in 1998 at age 30.He has two granddaughters. In 2002, Ben’s 32-year-old nephew, Jon S. Cardin, who graduated from University of Maryland law school in 2001, ran for election as a Delegate representing District 11 of western Baltimore County. With state legislative District 11 overlapping Congressional District 3, there were two Cardins on the ticket in this area in 2002. Present at Jon’s swearing in was the oldest living former member of the House of Delegates at 95 years of age, Meyer Cardin, Jon’s grandfather and Ben’s father. Also in attendance was Ben himself, who stated, "The next generation's taking over."After Ben announced that he would vacate his Congressional seat to run for the U.S. Senate, Jon Cardin stated that he was exploring a campaign for his uncle's Congressional seat, though he ultimately decided to seek reelection to the House of Delegates.
June 6th, 2011