Md. Del. Jon Cardin accuses fellow Democrats of ‘smear campaign’


File: Maryland Del. Jon S. Cardin, who sought the Democratic nomination for attorney general. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

More than a month after losing the Democratic primary for Maryland Attorney General, Del. Jon S. Cardin (Baltimore County) declared in a long, frustrated letter posted on Facebook that he was the victim of “the most negative smear campaign in a Democratic Party primary in Maryland’s modern history.”

In early polling, Cardin held a significant lead over rivals Sen. Brian E. Frosh (Montgomery) and Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (Prince George’s). But that lead quickly disappeared in the weeks before the primary, as Frosh gathered high-level support and Cardin found himself ensnared in controversy.

Frosh won the Democratic primary with about half of the votes and will face now face Republican Jeffrey N. Pritzker and Libertarian Leo Wayne Dymowski in the general election.

Cardin’s letter, dated Tuesday, provides a detailed rebuttal to one of the most damaging charges leveled against him in the weeks before the primary: that he missed 75 percent of committee votes during the 2014 General Assembly session.

In his first 11 years in Annapolis, Cardin said he attended 90 percent of votes in his committee and on the House floor. This year, Cardin said that because of family obligations he missed nine voting sessions of the Ways and Means Committee that totaled 119 votes and “all combined, less than 2 ½ hours of time.” He said that most of these sessions happened after 5 p.m. and three were held late on Friday afternoons when he returned home to observe the Jewish Sabbath.

Cardin said that during the session, he arrived in Annapolis at 6:30 a.m. and left between 5 and 6 p.m., skipping “the nightly dinners and corporate receptions that many of my colleagues enjoyed.”

Cardin said that he needed to get home to care for his 2-year-old daughter and assist his wife, who was having a difficult pregnancy.

“As democrats [sic], we have not only taken policy positions on more inclusion of men into nurturing responsibilities, but we actively champion legislation that requires male involvement in family matters,” Cardin wrote in the letter. “Ironically, when it came to demonstrating belief through modeling behavior, my party backers used it as a weapon to destroy me.”

Cardin — whose uncle is U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) — said that once his term as delegate ends at the end of the year, he will return to private life. He closed the long letter by saying that he is “committed to... the principles of the Democratic party” and hopes that “Brian Frosh, a good democrat, prevails so that our vision for a better Maryland is realized.”

Here’s the full letter:

July 29, 2014

Friends and Constituents of the 11th Legislative District:

For twelve years, I have had the honor of representing you in the House of Delegates. Thank you for putting your trust in me by electing me three times. This year, I ran for Attorney General and lost. For four weeks, I endured the most negative smear campaign seen in a Democratic Party primary in Maryland’s modern history, including accusations that I neglected my duties in the House of Delegates. Given the election results, it is clear that many believed the accusations. I made a mistake by not responding directly to the allegations when they were made. Now, I would like to set the record straight.

Rather than focus on issues or qualifications, several personal attacks were made on me. By far, the most captivating negative attack was that I was a slacker, that I had missed “75% of the votes” in the General Assembly. This is politics; I should have expected the other side to create a disparaging and disingenuous narrative to stick against me. Even so, I put my work ethic up against anyone’s in Annapolis. Over my 12 years in Annapolis, no one worked harder or tried to use his powers of persuasion to get legislative leaders to see alternative perspectives more than I. I was present for both Committee and House floor votes well-over 90% of the time, the 2014 session excepted.

This year, while I missed nearly no floor votes, no hearings, debates or amendments, I did miss nine committee voting sessions totaling 119 votes – all combined, less than 2 ½ hours of time. The majority of these voting sessions occurred after 5:00pm with an unprecedented three voting sessions late on Friday afternoons when I head home to observe the Jewish Sabbath. Each evening except one I was with my wife, dealing with serious pregnancy health matters and/or my two year old daughter while my wife went to the doctor alone. Needless to say, this was a difficult time for me and my family. The one voting session I missed, while not with family, I was in the community presenting legislative citations at the Baltimore Child Abuse Center and Maryland Israel Development Corporation.

As democrats, we have not only taken policy positions on more inclusion of men into nurturing responsibilities, but we actively champion legislation that requires male involvement in family matters. Ironically, when it came to demonstrating belief through modeling behavior, my party backers used it as a weapon to destroy me. As a working parent in a part-time citizen legislature, I balanced my family responsibilities with 119 non-controversial votes.

At the beginning of the legislative session, I informed my Chairwoman that I had made a commitment to spend as much time assisting my wife as possible while making sure my work as a legislator did not suffer. For this reason, my chair knew of my wife’s pregnancy and medical issues long before even my parents or in-laws. I told her if she needed me for a close vote, I would be there. I kept that promise to both my family and my constituents. I cast over 2700 votes in the 2014 session, attended every hearing and 100% of my subcommittee meetings where we marked up the bills and voted on ALL amendments. Paradoxically, a campaign strategy that focused on sullying the Cardin name and work ethic was necessary because focusing on democratic issues and values, like expanding sick leave to attend to relatives, likely would have bolstered my actions.

With 2014 being the most successful session of my career, defining me as absent from work 75% of the time was a lie that effectively changed the narrative. In fact, my colleagues saw me in Annapolis every day, all day. I arrived daily at 6:30am and left at between 5 and 6pm. What I did not do is frequent the nightly dinners and corporate receptions that many of my colleagues enjoyed. To the contrary, on the nine nights our votes were stalled, I lingered as long as I could, quickly grabbed a kosher sandwich and soda that my per diem permitted and then rushed out. Nevertheless, I was further attacked for [allegedly unethical] management of my budget.

Meanwhile, my bills to go after cyber sexual harassment, protect citizens from election fraud, protect children from domestic violence and make teenagers true lifesavers with Breanna’s Law are just a few of the issues that are making Maryland a better place for everyone. Again, it seems that few wanted to discuss these issues important in protecting Maryland’s families, but rather they wanted to falsely define me as an absentee legislator. And it’s disheartening this irony was not reported in the press.

I had hoped to bring my commitment to the protection of consumers, children and the environment to the Attorney General’s Office. Instead, I will be returning to private life at the end of the year. I made a conscious decision to run a 100% positive campaign for Attorney General, trying to move Maryland forward and not towards the DC culture of gridlock, smear and negativism. I may have lost the election because of the way I tried to balance my work in the Annapolis, my commitment to my family, and my ethical campaign. But, I do not regret the decisions I made. As I look to the future, I hope to continue to advocate for the issues that were the hallmarks of my twelve years in the House of Delegates while fulfilling my roles as a husband and father.

Here’s the bottom line: Even missing one vote is missing too many votes. I tried hard to balance my family responsibilities with my public responsibilities and remain quite proud of the work I did on behalf of my constituents. I am a positive person driven to fight against control-driven bullies who lack the confidence to permit the voiceless to be heard. It was an honor to serve on behalf of the citizens of Maryland, and it was a responsibility that I did not take lightly. Maryland needs ethical, independent thinkers to bring democracy, balance, fairness, dignity and respect to public service. If nothing else, I hope my loss illuminates on transcending a system where control and bullies trump transparency and principle.

I am committed to the principles of the Democratic party and hope that Brian Frosh, a good democrat, prevails so that our vision for a better Maryland is realized.

Sincerely,

Jon S. Cardin

Jenna Johnson writes about Maryland politics, including the General Assembly, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley and the 2014 election.
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