The 2006 Senate bid of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) gained support yesterday from 17 elected officials from Anne Arundel County, a growing jurisdiction represented by some of the party's more conservative members.

The endorsements, rolled out at a news conference on the Annapolis waterfront, served to reinforce Cardin's image as the candidate favored by the Democratic establishment. The Baltimore area lawmaker won the first major endorsement of the primary last month, when House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) announced support for his longtime friend.

"These people know me, and they're still endorsing me," Cardin said during a lighthearted moment at the event, referring to the portion of Anne Arundel County that is in his congressional district.

Cardin's new backers are Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, Anne Arundel Sheriff George F. Johnson IV, all four Democratic state senators whose districts include part of the county, seven state delegates and a pair of Annapolis aldermen and Anne Arundel County Council members.

Two of Anne Arundel's most prominent politicians, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and County Executive Janet S. Owens, did not take part. Neither has endorsed a candidate to replace Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D), who is retiring, and Owens has been mentioned as a possible contender.

The race has drawn one other major candidate, Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore, a former congressman and NAACP leader. Another, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, is in the midst of an exploratory effort.

Montgomery businessman Joshua Rales confirmed his interest in the race during an interview yesterday. Rales said those counseling him about a possible run include Steve Jarding, a Democratic operative who ran Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner's successful campaign in 2001. Jarding could not be reached.

Rales, who said he could self-fund much of his race, said he sees some similarities with Warner (D), another businessman who came to politics with a moderate image.

Rales, a former Republican, was approached to run for the Senate in 2002 by Maryland Republicans. He said he re-registered as a Democrat in 2004 after realizing that the GOP was not as fiscally responsible as he once thought.