Race between Cardin, Muse on April 3

James Wright | 3/28/2012, 9:56 a.m.

The Democratic Party primary race for the U.S. Senate between the incumbent who has a progressive voting record and an ambitious, telegenic state senator in Maryland has gained attention from political observers in the D.C. region and on the national level.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin finds himself in an unexpected and tough race for his seat against C. Anthony Muse, who represents Prince George's County's 26th Legislative District in the Maryland State Senate on Tue., April 3. Cardin, 68, has been endorsed by some African-American leaders such as former NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer Kweisi Mfume, Baltimore Mayor Sheila Rawlings-Blake, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, Maryland Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and President Obama.

"Ben is one of the good guys," Obama, 50, said in a November 2011 endorsement of Cardin. "He has the courage to stand up for what he believes and he works for solutions to the most important issues. That's why I need your help keeping Ben Cardin in the U.S. Senate."

The Cardin-Muse race is one of many in Prince George's County and in Maryland, where Democratic and Republican primaries will take place on Tue., April 3 for the presidential and congressional races and in Prince George's, residents will also vote for members of the Board of Education.

Muse, who is the senior minister of the Ark of the Covenant in Upper Marlboro, Md., received the endorsement of 200 ministers in Baltimore on March 5. John A. Lunn Sr., the president of the Baltimore Baptist Ministers Conference, who spearheaded the endorsement, said that Muse represents change.

"Muse is a man who cares for the people," Lunn said. "He is the change in Washington coming from the State of Maryland, which is needed. We are tired of business as usual."

In Maryland, the black church is a key conduit of political activity. Political leaders routinely make their way to black churches for the support of the ministers, who hold considerable sway over their congregations in terms of who to support in elections.

Muse said that a victory over Cardin on April 3 will serve as a symbol of the American Dream.

"With 35 years of public service in the State of Maryland, beginning as a youth pastor and organizer in Baltimore and now a state senator and candidate for the U.S. Senate, I have come to know that the hope and promise I was taught by my adopted family was indeed the American Dream," Muse, 53, said.

"[It's] A dream that has been shattered for many Americans by our nation's economic crises, through no fault of their own."

Change is the central theme of Muse's campaign, said Terry Speigner, a seasoned political operative who is working with Muse. The change, Speigner, 45, said, is based on the lack of African-American representation in the U.S. Senate.

"Right now, in the 112th Senate, you have 84 Whites who are 62 percent of the U.S. population, 12 Jews who are 1.87 percent of the population, two Hispanics who are 16 percent of the population, two Asians who represent four percent but no blacks, who are 12 percent of the country," Speigner said. "That is not right that blacks are not represented in the U.S. Senate. Muse can change that."

However, Cardin supporters who are African American said that it is the quality of the representation that counts.

"We need someone who will support President Obama's agenda effectively," said Maryland State Sen. Joanne Benson (D-Prince George's County). "Whenever we as Blacks needed an ally, Ben has been there for us."

Benson is the chair of the organization, Women for Cardin, and members include political heavyweights such as Maryland Delegates Carolyn J.B. Howard, Jolene Ivey, Tawanna Gaines and Catherine Leggett, the wife of Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett.

Muse's strength lies in rank-and-file political and civic leaders such as Belinda Queen, who is an activist in Prince George's County. She said that it's time for change.

"I have nothing against Ben Cardin but it is time for some new blood," Queen, 46, said. "We need some new people to represent Maryland in Washington and Muse will do that."

"Ben has been good because he has had a long political career, but it is time for him to make a change and we need a new senator."