Trying (and failing) to grind out sympathy for Cardin's issues

AG candidate's explanation would not fly with most employers

  • Del. Jon S. Cardin's campaign pointed out that he made more than 90 percent of votes on the House floor this year.
Del. Jon S. Cardin's campaign pointed out that he made… (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun )
May 13, 2014|Dan Rodricks

Allow me to clear up something for Maryland voters: Jon Cardin is not Ben Cardin. Jon Cardin is a lawyer and a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from Baltimore County. Ben Cardin is a member of the U.S. Senate; he's the junior senator from Maryland.

Jon Cardin is running in the June 24 primary for state attorney general. Ben Cardin is not running for anything this year.

Jon Cardin is 44 years old. He is Ben Cardin's nephew.

Ben Cardin is 70 years old. He is Jon Cardin's uncle.

They are both Democrats.

One other thing: According to The Baltimore Sun, Jon Cardin showed up for only about 25 percent of his votes as a member of the Ways and Means Committee in the recently completed 90-day election-year session of the Maryland General Assembly. And that's a pretty bad record. Jon Cardin's voting record on the floor of the House is much better: about 90 percent attendance over his 12 years in office, according to his campaign manager.

Now, down in Washington, Ben Cardin sits on about 15 committees and subcommittees — so many that, as of Monday, I was unable to get his overall record of attendance at committee votes.

But I can tell you this: In his seven years in the Senate, Ben Cardin has missed only seven of 2,270 roll-call votes. That's according to GovTrack.us. And that's a stellar record — only 0.3 percent of votes missed — and it puts Uncle Ben in an elite crowd of senators. It also confirms something even his political opponents sense about the guy: He's committed to the job. (I mean, the man even met with members of Pussy Riot last week to bring attention to human rights abuses in Russia under Vladimir Putin. That's commitment.)

So there you go. I hope that helps. I have seen some messages in social media over the last few days from people who do not seem to understand that the Cardin mentioned in recent news stories is Jon Cardin, the one running for attorney general, and not Uncle Ben.

It's an honest mistake. Ben Cardin has been in public life a long time — he was elected to the House of Delegates in 1966, when he was still in law school and he's known far and wide.

Jon Cardin, not so much.

In fact, the sizable lead he reportedly enjoys in polls comes mainly from name recognition. His opponents in the Democratic primary are Brian Frosh, a veteran state senator, and Aisha Braveboy, a two-term state delegate. Though Frosh has been around for a long time — first elected to the Assembly in 1987, to the Senate in 1995 — his name does not get easy statewide recognition the way Jon Cardin's does.

Jon Cardin is hardly the first guy to enjoy the benefits of being born with a respected political name. So you can't hold that against him.

But this 25 percent voting record in Ways and Means, and his excuse for it — that's something that should bug voters.

Nobody I know misses 75 percent of some aspect of his job and keeps it for very long.

I used to work in an iron foundry. Each morning, I would stand at a grinding wheel and grind little nubs off iron castings, hundreds of them. I had to grind three, sometimes four barrels full of castings before lunch. I don't remember the grinding room boss telling me it was OK to just grind 25 percent of those castings. Nor do I remember thinking 25 percent would be acceptable. In fact, had I been unable to keep up, I would have been bounced to a lesser job (and trust me, there were worse jobs than working at a grinding wheel for hours at a time).

So Jon Cardin might have thought it was no biggie to miss 121 out of 164 votes in Ways and Means — he says he made sure he never missed a vote that would have affected the outcome of a bill — but you won't find many parallels to his record in the real world of wage workers, time clocks and timesheets.

Of course, after first refusing to respond to a reporter's questions about his voting record and finding his name in a headline, Jon Cardin issued a statement.

And he played the family card.

He said he'd missed votes to spend time with his wife and daughter. He mentioned that his wife was pregnant, too.

"While I spent my days serving all of Maryland families in Annapolis," he said, "I also have a responsibility to my own family — and there were nights where I needed to be home with my expecting wife and our young daughter."

To this profoundly human desire we are all sympathetic — and not sympathetic at all.

We'd all like to be excused from 75 percent of something to spend more time with family. But that's not how the working world works, and most people — especially those looking for a promotion — know that.

drodricks@baltsun.com

Dan Rodricks' column appears each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He is the host of "Midday" on WYPR-FM.

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