By Glynis Kazanjian
Potential Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Wargotz said he will make his decision whether to run against first-term Democratic Sen. Benjamin Cardin by early November.
Wargotz got 36% of the vote last year as the Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the best any Republican had done against the state’s most popular Democrat in four elections. Cardin got 54% of the vote six years ago against then-Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.
“We’ve been evaluating our shot at running against the Republican field, as well as looking analytically at our chances against Ben Cardin in such a blue state as Maryland,” Wargotz said in an interview.
Wargotz, a physician and former Queen Anne’s County Commissioner, beat out 10 primary contenders to win the Republican nomination in 2010, but lost the race to Mikulski by a vote margin of almost two-to-one. He’s eager to challenge Cardin. “I want to do this yesterday. I want to do this in the worst way,” Wargotz said.
Believes he is strongest candidate
Wargotz believes he has the strongest chance to beat Cardin, primarily because of his statewide exposure from his 2010 race against Mikulski. Unlike last year, when hundreds of state and county offices were up for grabs, only the races for president and seats in Congress will be up for grabs, along with some judgeships and ballot questions.
“The reason our team feels we are the lead candidate, if I get in, is because we’ll have the greatest shot against [Cardin],” Wargotz said. “That’s our presumption, predicated on the fact that we ran before, and we can build on that momentum. As a candidate, I did better than any other against Senator Mikulski. We feel we can build on that name recognition, that support and that base to have the best shot to beat Senator Cardin.”
None of the Republican candidates, or potential candidates, has run a statewide campaign before, Wargotz said, and he thinks that is significant. They include former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, a new face in the party who’s gained repeated national media attention because of his interesting life story, and Del. Pat McDonough, the populist from eastern Baltimore County who’s long fought against illegal immigration.
“Pat McDonough, who I have tremendous respect for and enjoy a very friendly relationship with, has district exposure for the years he’s been in office, but he has not run a state-wide campaign. I think it makes a very big difference, and of course, I think it makes a big difference with the candidates who have not run for office or have run but on a limited scale.”
(Cardin has pointed out that McDonough has run against him before when he represented the 3rd Congressional District, getting 33% of the vote against Cardin in 1996.)
In line with Tea Party
A match up with Cardin, who voted with his party 99% of the time in the 112th Congress, according to Opencongress.org, would be quite a contrast.
“I consider myself in line with Tea Party issues,” Wargotz said. “I think the Tea Party has been misrepresented by the national media and a lot of folks have a very distorted view of what they stand for collectively. The Tea Party movement came out of two tenants: accountability – government spends too much – and overtaxing citizens.”
“I am the best candidate in general,” Wargatz said. “ I have a great understanding of health care. I’m a physician, who has served in administrative roles in health care, as well as in clinical roles, so I understand how the delivery system works to patients and how money flows as an administrator; I served in an executive leadership role as a county commissioner, but I’m not a career politician; and, I understand private enterprise. I’ve served on boards and I have a record of accomplishments. All of these are insights which I don’t believe the other candidates in the field have.”
Wargotz has been soliciting campaign contributions to help him decide whether to make the run. According to Federal Election Commission records, he loaned himself $975,000 in the last campaign — 78% of what he raised — and the campaign still owed $666,000 of that as of Dec. 31.
Wargotz said his campaign team is busy gauging the public sentiment on Cardin, other Republican candidates and himself. He said there is no current polling about Cardin’s approval or disapproval with voters, but his team expects to have all the available data crunched and analyzed in time to meet their November timeline.
The filing deadline for candidates is Jan. 11 and the primary is set for April 3.