With three Montgomery County Democrats eyeing Maryland's Senate race, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore rolled out endorsements yesterday from more than two dozen of the county's elected officials.

The announcement at a community forum in Silver Spring underscored Cardin's early strength with the party establishment as the 2006 primary field grows.

Cardin picked up endorsements last night from all eight of Montgomery's state senators, 14 of its 23 Democratic delegates, four County Council members, State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Montgomery County Sheriff Raymond M. Kight. Many cited long working relationships with Cardin, a former speaker of the House of Delegates who has held elective office for nearly 40 years.

"It's an easy pick," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh. "He's somebody I've known for a long time, and I think that's true of many of my colleagues as well."

Cardin has had similar events recently in Anne Arundel and Howard counties and in Southern Maryland, methodically unveiling supporters.

Last night's round of endorsements came less than a week after Bethesda resident Lise Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist and sister of Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren, announced that she would enter the race. Two other Montgomery County Democrats are leaning toward announcing bids this month: Allan J. Lichtman, an American University historian and Bethesda resident; and Potomac businessman Joshua Rales.

Lisa McMurray, Van Susteren's campaign manager, and Lichtman played down the significance of Cardin's latest backers. "I don't think the people want to send another member of the club endorsed by the club to Washington," Lichtman said.

Besides Cardin and Van Susteren, two other Democrats have already joined the race: former congressman and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume and community activist A. Robert Kaufman, both of Baltimore. Former Baltimore county executive Dennis Rasmussen and Del. Anthony G. Brown (Prince George's) are among the other Democrats considering the race.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore is reaching into Montgomery County for support as he runs for the U.S. Senate. Here, he and his wife, Myrna, left, talk with Joyce Hunter of Germantown at the county fairgrounds.