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United States Senate election in Maryland, 2006

The Maryland U.S. Senate election of 2006 was held on Tuesday, November 7, 2006. U.S. Representative and Democratic Party nominee Ben Cardin defeated both the Republican candidate Lieutenant Governor Michael S. Steele and Green, Libertarian, and Populist candidate Kevin Zeese. Cardin will serve a six-year term from January 3, 2007, to January 3, 2013. The Democratic and Republican primaries took place on September 12, 2006. On March 11, 2005, Maryland's longest serving United States Senator Paul Sarbanes announced that he would not seek a sixth term. This was Maryland's first open Senate seat since 1986, when junior Senator Barbara Mikulski was first elected.

Primary elections

Democratic primary

Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and NAACP President, was the first to announce for the position, in March 2005. Ben Cardin, a current congressman, was the only other major candidate until September 2005, when Dennis F. Rasmussen, a former Baltimore County Executive, American University professor Allan Lichtman, and wealthy Potomac businessman Josh Rales entered the contest. Thirteen other candidates subsequently also entered the primary. As of August 2006, Cardin had raised more than $4.8 million and collected endorsements from a number of Democratic politicians, the AFL-CIO, and The Washington Post; Mfume had raised over $1.2 million and collected endorsements from the Maryland State Teachers Association, Progressive Maryland, former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, the National Organization for Women, and Maryland Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Al Wynn.

On August 31, 2006, Maryland Public Television and the League of Women Voters sponsored a debate between the two leading Democratic Primary Candidates , . Lichtman, Rales, and Rasmussen petitioned MPT and LWV for inclusion in the debate, but received no response. On the day of the debate, Lichtman, his wife, and a campaign aide were arrested for trespassing while protesting during the taping of the debate .

Republican primary

Michael S. Steele was expected to win the Republican Primary, even to the point where Maryland Public Television personality Jeff Salkin declared at a Maryland League of Women Voters debate that Steele is "unopposed." . Among a field of nine other candidates, the only Republican receiving sufficient media coverage was Daniel Vovak.


Democratic Primary Results Republican Primary Results
Candidate Votes Percent Candidate Votes Percent
Benjamin L. Cardin (winner) 257,545 43.7% Michael S. Steele (winner) 190,790 87.0%
Kweisi Mfume 238,957 40.5% John B Kimble 6,280 2.9%
Josh Rales 30,737 5.2% Earl Gordon 4,110 1.9%
Dennis F. Rasmussen 10,997 1.9% Daniel "Wig Man" Vovak 4,063 1.9%
Mike Schaefer 7,773 1.3% Thomas Hampton 3,946 1.8%
Allan Lichtman 6,919 1.2% Corrogan Vaughn 2,565 1.2%
Theresa Scaldaferri 5,081 0.9% Daniel Muffoletto 2,335 1.1%
James Hutchinson 4,949 0.8% Richard Shawver 2,298 1.0%
David Dickerson 3,950 0.7% Ray Bly 2,114 1.0%
A. Robert Kaufman 3,908 0.7% Edward Raymond Madej 902 0.4%
Anthony Jaworski 3,486 0.6%
Thomas McCaskill 3,459 0.6%
George English 2,305 0.4%
Bob Robinson 2,208 0.4%
Lih Young 2,039 0.3%
Blaine Taylor 1,848 0.3%
Joseph Werner 1,832 0.3%
Charles Ulysses Smith 1,702 0.3%
Totals 589,695 100.0% Totals 219,403 100.0%
Source: Maryland State Board of Elections

General election

Michael Steele won the Republican nomination after facing little competition in the contest for the Republican ticket. With mostly unknown secondary candidates, Steele received 87% of the Republican Primary vote.

Third District Congressional Representative Ben Cardin won the Democratic Party nomination after facing tough competition in the contest for the Democratic ticket from former congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, businessman Josh Rales, former Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen, and several lesser known candidates. Cardin received 44% of the Democratic Primary vote to 40% for Mfume, his next closest competitor. All other candidates received percentages only in the single digits.

Kevin Zeese, the nominee for the Green, Populist and Libertarian Parties, was also on the ballot.

Though Steele lost the general election by 10%, a much wider margin than predicted, his was the best showing for a Republican in a Senate race in Maryland since Charles Mathias, Jr. was reelected in 1980 with 66% of the vote.


The first debate of the race was held Tuesday, October 3, 2006. All three candidates were present and participated. The evening was hosted by the Baltimore Urban League, and moderated by Charles Robinson from Maryland Public Television and Doni Glover from BMORENEWS.

The first televised debate of the campaign was broadcast on News Channel 8 on the program "News Talk". All three candidates participated in the debate, and were moderated by Bruce DePuyt, the host of the program. There was no audience. This debate was widely reported because of the constant bickering between the three candidates, who often interrupted and talked over one another.

Another debate took place between Steele and Cardin on Sunday, October 29, 2006 as a part of the Meet The Press Senatorial debate series. Moderated by Tim Russert, the debate focused primarily on the Iraq War and stem-cell research, amongst other issues.

The three candidates all participated in the final debate of the campaign on Friday, November 3, 2006. The event was sponsored by the Collective Banking Group and held at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden.


Steele vs Cardin

Cardin primarily attacked Steele over his close relations with Bush, including pictures of Bush and Steele in Cardin's TV ads. Steele focused on low taxes, less government spending, free markets and national security.



Racial attacks during campaign

Since announcing his candidacy, Steele had been the target of attacks that he says are racially tinged. A blog run by a Steve Gilliard, a politically liberal African-American, depicted Steele as a blackface minstrel. Tim Kaine, the Democratic Governor of Virginia, subsequently pulled all his ads from the blog.

DSCC credit report incident

Staffers of the DSCC illegally obtained a copy of Steele's credit report during the campaign. Researcher Lauren Weiner used Steele's SSN to obtain his credit report from TransUnion. Weiner used Research Director Katie Barge's DSCC credit card to pay for the report. After an internal investigation, the Maryland Democratic Party determined the credit report was obtained illegally, and reported the incident to the U.S. Attorney. Weiner pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of computer fraud and will do 150 hours of community service. Barge resigned from the DSCC. Steele has commented upon the incident: "It is a stain on the entire organization and the operations of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It's the kind of politics that turns people off and demeans the electoral process.

Steele has gone on to use the incident in a fund-raising mailing and attack ads against Ben Cardin. Steele states in the fund-raising letter "from stealing my credit report to endless personal attacks, Congressman Ben Cardin just can't seem to have a real debate on the issues..." In the TV ad, Steele says "Ben Cardin's team hacks into my credit report..." Cardin responded "and Michael Steele knows this - there is no connection whatsoever with the [credit report] episode and [me] or my campaign."

Anonymous comments by Steele

In July 2006, Steele made headlines after it was revealed that he told The Washington Post reporters in an "on background" conversation that his being a Republican amounted to wearing a scarlet letter. State Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman's response to the Post in the same article pointed out that Steele has held fundraisers with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Bush adviser Karl Rove and National Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman. "He has taken millions from Bush and his top aides and even endorsed Bush in a prime-time Republican National Convention speech in August 2004," Lierman said.

Campaign website

In July of 2006, Steele posted photographs on his website that included him with prominent local and national Democrats from events where Steele appeared as the Lieutenant Governor, not as a candidate, without their permission. The posting came under criticism from the local party and Steny Hoyer (D-5th), and Steele removed the photos. The Maryland Democratic Party started its own website with photographs of Steele with Republicans unpopular in the state.

Martin Luther King, Jr., advertisement

In September 2006, an advertisement run by the National Black Republican Association in support of Steele generated controversy for its claims. For example, it claimed that Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Republican. The ad also accused Democrats in general of opposing civil rights legislation and releasing "vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks." After hearing the ad for himself, Steele disavowed it and asked that it be pulled from the air.

Cardin staffer blogging

On September 16, 2006, Cardin's campaign fired a staffer who had maintained a blog about her experiences within the campaign. In addition to revealing details about the campaign, some of the blog entries contained racial and ethnic slurs. For example, some entries discussed the hypersensitivity of the campaign to racial issues, claiming that a black staffer on the campaign was able to keep his job solely due to playing "the racism card". In another entry, the staffer expressed her belief that she was a "sex object" for Jewish friends of Cardin, whom she described as having "Jewish noses." Although the Cardin campaign maintained it was a "junior staffer," some bloggers revealed that the staffer was Ursula Gruber, a regional director in charge of other workers in the campaign.

Handing out misleading voter guides

On November 7, 2006, committees supporting Bob Ehrlich's gubernatorial re-election campaign and Michael Steele's Maryland senatorial campaign recruited seven busloads of homeless Philadelphians to distribute fake voter guides in Maryland. The fake sample ballots, labeled as an "official voter guide", misleadingly described both candidates as Democrats and were handed out to mostly poor and black voters in Prince George's County in Maryland. Workers said that first lady Kendel Ehrlich personally gave them T-shirts and hats and thanked them. However, Ehrlich claimed to be unaware that these workers were hired from Philadelphia. The campaign tactic was widely criticized by Democrats for confusing and misleading voters.

Election-eve campaign mailers

On November 6, 2006, the day before the general election, groups supporting Gov. Ehrlich's and Lt. Gov. Steele's campaigns mailed a flier to a number of Prince George's County residents. The flier, a self-proclaimed "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats Official Voter Guide," was a sample ballot endorsing Ehrlich and Steele alongside numerous Democratic politicians. The front cover of the mailer featured pictures of several current and former Democratic candidates for public office, with the text, "These Are Our Choices."

Many Democrats criticized the mailer as misleading, as it could imply that Ehrlich and Steele were Democrats. (The text on the back of the mailer encouraged Democrats to vote for Republican candidates, but the sample ballot itself made no mention of the candidates' party affiliations.) Others, including Kweisi Mfume and Jack B. Johnson said that the featuring of three Prince George's County Democrats on the front of the mailer suggested that they all had endorsed Ehrlich and Steele, which was not the case.

Full list of candidates



Other parties

  • Kevin Zeese - (Campaign website) (Campaign wiki site). Zeese won the nominations of the Libertarian Party of Maryland, the Maryland Green Party, and the Populist Party of Maryland, the first time all three parties have nominated the same candidate. However, Maryland law prohibits fusion candidacies, so Zeese was listed on the ballot as only the Green Party candidate, as he is a registered member of that party.

Pre-election opinion polling


Source Date Cardin (D) Steele (R) Zeese (G)
SurveyUSA November 6, 2006 49% 46% 3%
Mason-Dixon/MSNBC November 5, 2006 47% 44% 0.6%
SurveyUSA November 3, 2006 47% 47%
Baltimore Sun/Potomac Inc. November 2, 2006 49% 43% 2%
Reuters/Zogby November 2, 2006 49% 44%
Washington Post October 29, 2006 54% 43% 1%
Rasmussen October 26, 2006 49% 42%
Garin Hart Yang (D) October 23-24, 2006 52% 40%
VC Research (R) October 22-23, 2006 41% 39%
SurveyUSA October 18, 2006 46% 46% 3%
Rasmussen October 16, 2006 53% 44%
USA Today/Gallup October 6, 2006 54% 39%
Reuters/Zogby October 5, 2006 45% 37%
Public Opinion Strategies (R) October 2-4, 2006 47% 43%
Mason-Dixon/MSNBC October 2, 2006 47% 41% 1%
Zogby/Wall Street Journal September 28, 2006 51.9% 38.9%
VC Research (R) September 27-28, 2006 44% 39%
Baltimore Sun/Potomac Inc. September 25, 2006 51% 40%
SurveyUSA September 20, 2006 47% 48% 4%
Rasmussen September 19, 2006 50% 43%
Zogby/Wall Street Journal September 10, 2006 49.4% 40.2%
Gonzales Research August 30, 2006 44% 39%
Zogby/Wall Street Journal August 28, 2006 50% 41%
Rasmussen August 18, 2006 47% 42%
Public Opinion Strategies (R) August 1-2, 2006 43% 35%
Zogby/Wall Street Journal July 24, 2006 50% 42%
Rasmussen July 17, 2006 47% 41%
Baltimore Sun/Potomac Inc. July 6-10, 2006 47% 36%
Washington Post June 25, 2006 49% 39%
Zogby/Wall Street Journal June 21, 2006 51% 40%
Rasmussen April 25, 2006 45% 35%
Gonzales Research April 18, 2006 49% 35%
Zogby/Wall Street Journal March 31, 2006 49% 39%
Rasmussen February 22, 2006 49% 35%
Zogby January 20, 2006 49% 43%
Rasmussen January 13, 2006 40% 45%
Rasmussen November 21, 2005 49% 41%
Baltimore Sun October 25, 2005 47% 38%
Baltimore Sun April, 2005 41% 37%

Democratic Primary

Source Date Cardin Kaufman Lichtman Mfume Rales Rasmussen
SurveyUSA September 11, 2006 47% 38% 7%
SurveyUSA August 31, 2006 38% 42% 7%
Gonzales Research August 30, 2006 43% 30% 6%
Public Opinion Strategies August 1-2, 2006 31% 25% 4% 6%
Baltimore Sun July 17, 2006 32% 1% 1% 28% 1% 1%
Washington Post June 25, 2006 26% 2% 4% 33% 0% 4%


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