Maryland state Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s) is set to announce Thursday evening that he is challenging U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin for reelection, setting up a competitive Democratic primary contest between a well-known minister and a seasoned incumbent.
Three months after revealing that he was considering a bid against Cardin, Muse is slated to make his campaign official at a banquet hall in Upper Marlboro. Muse’s announcement comes six days before the Maryland filing deadline and three months before the state’s April 3 primary.
In an interview Thursday, Muse said he was entering the race because “I believe we’re going in the wrong direction and I believe Washington, D.C. is broken.”
Muse begins the contest with some disadvantages. Cardin is a relatively popular incumbent — a May 2010 Washington Post poll gave him a 65 percent approval rating among Democrats — and had $2.3 million sitting in his campaign account as of Sept. 30. (Fresh fundraising numbers are due to be reported in 10 days.)
But Muse said that he has “a pretty good chance of winning.” He noted that when Cardin first won his seat in 2006, he outspent former congressman Kweisi Mfume by a huge margin but only won the Democratic primary by a narrow 3 percent.
After defeating the African-American Mfume, Cardin went on to beat another black opponent in the general election, then-Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.
Muse, also African American, plans to make race an issue in this year’s campaign.
“It’s an issue for people who look at the makeup of Congress, that everyone should be represented,” Muse said. “Why is it in 2012 we don’t have one African-American in the United States Senate?”
In a statement reacting to Muse’s planned announcement, Cardin said: “I will take nothing for granted as I seek re-election so that I can continue to work with President Obama to help make Maryland a better place for all who live and work in our great state.”
The statement also noted that Cardin has been endorsed by Obama.
While Cardin has spent more than 40 years in elected office, Muse is no stranger to politics himself.
Currently in his second term in the state Senate, Muse is the founder and senior pastor of Ark of Safety Christian Church in Upper Marlboro. He previously served two terms in the state House, and lost a 2002 race for Prince George’s County Executive.
While saying he wants to represent the “voiceless” in the Senate, Muse could not point to many specific issues on which he would differ with Cardin, who has assembled a solidly liberal voting record.
Muse did say said that if he were elected to Congress he would not be “rewarding banks,” a reference to the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program that Cardin — and a majority of both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate — supported.
Muse said he expected many leaders in Prince George’s to stay neutral in the race, and that he understood why many local officials would be hesitant to endorse him against an incumbent. But at least one key leader isn’t staying neutral.
On Wednesday, the Cardin campaign released a Web video featuring the endorsement of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.
“Senator Cardin is a great guy, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner,” Baker said.
Nine candidates, meanwhile,. have filed to run in the Republican primary for Senate (it’s relatively easy to get on the ballot in Maryland compared to other states). The most active campaigner so far has been former Secret Service agent Daniel Bongino.