Bethesda -- With a populist message and a few digs at the front-runners, politics professor and commentator Allan J. Lichtman entered the race for the U.S. Senate yesterday.
Though he has never run for office, Lichtman told a crowd of supporters gathered at the North Bethesda Middle School that he will capture the Democratic nomination and win the general election by waging a grass-roots campaign against corporate interests and the Washington establishment.
"I am running to change what is wrong in Washington," he said. "Today, there is too much government intruding in our private lives and too little government meeting our needs."
Lichtman, a professor of political history at American University in Washington and a political commentator for The Montgomery Gazette, CNN and other news outlets, enters an increasingly crowded field to replace Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, who is retiring after his term ends.
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Kweisi Mfume, former NAACP head and a former congressman, psychiatrist Lisa Van Susteren and Baltimore activist A. Robert Kaufman have announced bids for the Democratic nomination.
Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele is the only major Republican considering running for the seat. Kevin B. Zeese, a former Ralph Nader campaign staffer, is mounting an independent bid.
Lichtman, of Bethesda, promised to fight for universal access to good public schools, a healthier environment, an end to dependence on fossil fuels and the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
He singled out Cardin for attack, saying he should not be anointed as the Democrats' nominee. He said Cardin has not done enough to get the troops out of Iraq and has been too cozy with corporate interests.
Oren Shur, campaign spokesman for Cardin, said the congressman voted against the Iraq war and continues to oppose the president's policies.
"Maryland Democrats will rally behind a Senate candidate who has a strong record on the issues important to Maryland families and who can win against a well-financed Republican campaign," Shur said.
Cardin leads other contenders in raising money and securing endorsements of his candidacy.
After his speech, Lichtman criticized Mfume, saying he had not "developed real themes, real issues, real ideas."
A spokeswoman for Mfume said he had no comment.