Md. voters will have a wealth of choices on ballot for Senate race

By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 26, 2010

Most people are familiar with what it takes to make a real run for president: months of work, hordes of volunteers, and dozens of trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. But what about running for the U.S. Senate from Maryland?

No campaign workers are necessary to get on the primary ballot, and neither are petitions or even yard signs. Just a check for less than $300 -- about what it costs to buy the latest iPhone -- and a desire to be heard.

That low barrier to entry helps explain why 18 candidates are seeking the Republican or Democratic nominations this year, including Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D), who is widely expected to win her fifth term.

"I can't honestly tell you that I expect to win, but I did put my $290 down so I could have my say," said Barry Steve Asbury, one of 11 Republican candidates.

Asbury publishes the small Consumer's News Guide newspaper in northern Baltimore County. The race also includes multiple lawyers, a scrap metal worker, a self-described criminal intelligence analyst who dabbles in motivational speaking (or vice versa), at least two doctors and a behavioral scientist.

Chris Garner, a Severna Park engineer who campaigns in what he calls "Bob the Minivan," said he is running as a Democrat to advance his "disincumbentization program" -- to oust Mikulski and every other legislator from office.

"The reason I'm running is because of the way the Democratic elite have been running this state and a lot of the government. They're running away from their natural constituency, which is the working people of this state," Garner said.

Potomac dentist Neil Cohen, a self-described moderate Republican, suggested that his day job has helped prepare him to be a good Senate candidate.

"The skill that I have is being able to listen to people and solve their problems," he said.

Blaine Taylor, a Democrat and former congressional aide from Towson, said he is running "to give the voters of Maryland an alternative to Senator Mikulski's pro-war votes in the United States Senate."

Taylor was one of 18 Democrats in the 2006 Senate primary, getting 1,848 votes. Ten Republicans also ran for the seat, which was won by Benjamin L. Cardin (D).

Concerning the state requirements, "Maryland's got quite low filing fees compared to other states," said Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News. Only a handful of states have filing fees lower than Maryland's for getting on the primary ballot, he said.

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