ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland announced Monday that he plans to retire at the end of his third term, triggering what is likely to be a highly competitive primary to replace him in the blue-leaning state.
The decision by Cardin, a longtime fixture of Maryland politics, will open up his seat for the first time since 2006, when he was elected to the Senate after spending 20 years in the U.S. House representing a large part of Baltimore and several nearby suburbs.
“I am proud of all I have done for Maryland. I have given my heart and soul to our great state, and I thank Marylanders for trusting me as your representative for all these years,” Cardin said in a statement.
Cardin, 79, is the third Democratic senator to decide not to run for reelection next year, following Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. On the Republican side, Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana is eschewing a second term and will run for governor instead.
Potential candidates for Cardin’s seat include Democratic Reps. David Trone and Jamie Raskin. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is also considered a possible Democratic contender.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Maryland, which has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1980. The state’s eight-member House delegation has only one Republican.
Last year, GOP leadership aggressively tried to recruit then-Gov. Larry Hogan to run against Sen. Chris Van Hollen, but Hogan declined, saying he didn’t “aspire” to be a U.S. senator. Hogan, who recently wrapped up his second and final term as governor, said in March that he would not seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president.
During Cardin’s tenure in the Senate, he has been a leader in health care, retirement security, the environment and fiscal issues. The senator has also been a leading advocate for clean water and the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, which flows through his home state.
He helped write the Paycheck Protection Program that helped small businesses in Maryland and nationwide endure the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also created the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance Grant program to quickly get cash to small businesses in need.
His legislation to expand Medicare to include preventive benefits such as colorectal, prostate, mammogram, and osteoporosis screening was also enacted.
“I salute my friend and our state’s senior Senator Ben Cardin on his extraordinary public service to Maryland and our country,” Van Hollen said in a statement Monday. “It is a privilege to serve alongside him and in partnership every day for the people of our great state.”
Cardin also has worked in foreign affairs, supporting the integration of anti-corruption, transparency and respect for human rights into foreign policy. He chaired the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
Cardin counts among his achievements the passage of his legislation to increase the amount Americans can put into their 401(k) plans and IRAs, which was enacted in 2001.
Cardin also had a long career in state government before he became a congressman. He won a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1966. He served as the Maryland House speaker from 1979 to 1986.
As a state legislator and a member of Congress, Cardin has generally supported liberal views, emphasizing increased aid for education, tax relief for low-income people and protection of the environment.