Best Exploitation of a Surname

City Paper

Trading on name recognition, legitimately or otherwise, is the oldest and most reliable tactic in the electoral playbook. Locally (for example), candidates named Curran, Conway, and Mitchell have always enjoyed a head start, even though they don’t always win. This year, Delegate Jon Cardin, nephew of U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, was an instant front-runner in the Democratic race for State Attorney General. Having coasted into the House of Delegates in 2003, Cardin distinguished himself in 2014 by missing roughly 75 percent of the voting sessions in the House Ways and Means Committee. Prior to that, his best-known accomplishment as a public figure was paying Baltimore police to stage a fake raid on a boat where Cardin and his then-girlfriend were on board as a bogus backdrop for Cardin’s marriage proposal. In contrast to his feckless kinsman, Uncle Ben Cardin is a bland but hard-working lawmaker who rose through the ranks of the House of Delegates to the post of speaker; waged a tough fight (against colleague Kweisi Mfume) to take over Barbara Mikulski’s congressional seat; then moved into the U.S. Senate as Mikulski’s junior partner. It’s not surprising, but a bit sad, that the Cardin who came up the hard way felt obligated to endorse his brother’s kid for the state’s highest law-enforcement position. The delegate ultimately lost to State Senator Brian Frosh but Cardin (nephew) wins this nod in recognition of his having got so far in Maryland politics without any obvious qualification other than the six letters of his surname.

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