In what was considered an amicable campaign between two old colleagues, Rep. Benjamin Cardin defeated former congressman Kweisi Mfume in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Maryland.
With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Cardin had 45 percent of the vote and Mfume had 38 percent.
The remaining votes were spread among the 16 other candidates, with wealthy businessman Josh Rales the top vote-getter with 5 percent. American University professor Allan Lichtman, who achieved national notoriety when he was arrested for protesting a televised debate between Cardin and Mfume, received 1 percent.
Cardin will now face Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who coasted to the Republican nomination over nine other candidates with 87 percent of the vote. While recent polling suggests that Cardin has a healthy lead over Steele, although earlier surveys had showed the two in a dead heat. The open seat vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes may give Republicans a rare opportunity to pick up a Senate seat in a heavily Democratic state.
On Wednesday morning, Cardin told the Associated Press that he and Mfume were united in defeating Steele.
“We ran a campaign that wasn’t about our election, it was about November’s election,” said Cardin. “We need to change the direction of the country. We had two people running who shared the same commitment.”
Mfume told supporters early Wednesday morning that Cardin would “be a damn good senator.” Mfume’s campaign struggled financially from the start and was only able to buy television advertisements in the two weeks leading up to the primary.
Steele appeared before his supporters Tuesday night and reiterated what has been a constant theme throughout his campaign: his independence from the Republican Party.
“People are tired of being forced into a red or blue box,” said Steele. “Your problems are not red or blue. Your problems are real.”
The primary was marred by statewide voting problems and local circuit courts extended voting hours to account for the mistake, causing a delay in the ballot returns.
In Montgomery County, the electronic voting machines were inoperable for the first few hours of voting because the cards required to activate the machines had not been distributed to polling locations.
Hundreds of early morning voters were forced to use provisional ballots instead, which likely will not be counted until early next week, and many others had to return later because their polling site had run out of provisional ballots.
In Baltimore, election judges arrived late to some polling stations.