In first forum, U.S. Senate candidates tackle state ballot questions

At WOLB debate, from left: Dan Bongino, Ben Cardin, Larry Young, Dean Ahmad and Rob Sobhani

At WOLB debate, from left: Dan Bongino, Ben Cardin, Larry Young, Dean Ahmad and Rob Sobhani

By Sam Smith

In their very first forum of the U.S. Senate campaign, the four candidates offered varying views on three of the state’s most controversial ballot questions Wednesday on Larry Young’s Morning Show on WOLB radio in Baltimore.

Responding to a question from Young, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, Republican Dan Bongino, independent Rob Sobhani and Libertarian Dean Ahmad offered their views on same-sex marriage, gambling expansion and immigrant tuition.

Gambling expansion

In response to Question 7 on gaming expansion,  Sobhani and Ahmad took strong stances against the measure to expand gambling to a sixth casino and table games, while Cardin and Bongino said they are deferring to the voters. Sobhani said Maryland’s politicians must be bereft of ideas if gambling is the only way they have to help grow Maryland’s economy. Ahmad attacked the expansion by saying that it is the epitome of crony capitalism, government favoritism for a particular company.

From front: Dean Ahmad, Dan Bongino, Ben Cardin, Rob Sobhani

From front: Dean Ahmad, Dan Bongino, Ben Cardin, Rob Sobhani

Bongino said that although he does not personally support gambling, it should be left up to the people whether they want to expand gambling and allow table games.

“I don’t believe my opinion should be imposed on the citizens of Prince Georges County, or Baltimore City, or folks in Rocky Gap or Perryville,” Bongino said. “If you chose a casino in your area, that is your choice.”

In-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants

Cardin was the candidate who strongly supports the DREAM act granting in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants. He is also a co-sponsor of the Federal DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. He said that providing support for immigrant children to obtain an education and start down a path of permanent residency is not only good for economic growth but good as a human rights measure.

“Here you have students who are innocent,” Cardin said. “They should have a right and opportunity to be educated.”

Although Bongino and Ahmad both realize the importance of immigration to the history of America, they both are against the DREAM act because it creates two separate sets of rules. They both questioned why immigrants that came to Maryland illegally should be rewarded.

“To simply give people who are not legal residents a discount that someone who is a legal resident of Pennsylvania would not be entitled to makes no sense to me,” Ahmad said.

Sobhani did not give a clear yes or no, even though he wrote a book on immigration, “Press 2 for English.” He said that Maryland has a problem with wealth creation because of a broken immigration system.

Same-sex marriage

Bongino and Ahmad both agreed that they are voting no on Question 6 allowing same-sex marriage, while Cardin said he will vote to permit gay marriage. Ahmad said that there are other actions that can be taken to give homosexuals their rights other than calling their relationship a marriage. Bongino said he would instead like to clean the tax code of benefits to marriage.

“There is viable argument to be made that hetrosexual couples have benefits that homosexual couples don’t,” Bongino said. “I don’t believe that expanding the government’s role in marriage is a good idea. I will be voting no.”

The law would not require churches to perform marriages that are against their beliefs.

Rob Sobhani did not give his views on Question 6.

You can listen to the entire forum online. Another forum will held at Salisbury University Oct. 30 and a third on WTTG-TV, the Washington Fox channel 5 at 9 a.m. on Oct. 31.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Cindy Walsh

    Why do we have a forum for the election and not for the primaries. The Baltimore area has a media blackout when the time comes to select a challenger to longtime incumbents. League of Women Voters were unable to find a media outlet that would even link to primary debates so candidates could get name recognition, speak to the issues, and fund raise. There was no venue for voters to ask the primary candidates questions on issues. This is highly unusual and leads to people going to the polls not knowing who the challengers are or for what they stand. This is a big part of the extremely low turnout figures in the Baltimore area at less then 20%.

  2. David M. Zwald

    I have listened to the debate thoroughly. I would like to add that Mr. Sobhani has indicated in his petition process that he is in favor of gay marriage. Regarding in-state tuition, this again is Mr. Sobhani’s style. He will say anything anytime to what his perceived audience is. Mr. Bongino was the clearest choice by far compared to a tax and spend agenda of Mr. Cardin…(and Mr. Sobhani) vs. a “no more taxes” and more economic freedom agenda of Mr. Bongino. I particularly liked Mr. Bongino’s answer regarding the education system of our day. Our system, with all its money and all its good intentions, is not delivering well educated globally competitive students. In fact, the opposite is happening. Children living in certain zip codes are condemned to a “failure factory”. He advocates more choice in education is the simple answer to improving results. Dan Bongino is a breath of fresh air in “politics as usual” Maryland.

  3. Awesomeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

    Why does anyone agree to be on Larry Young’s show? What an embarrassment this man is to Baltimore and Maryland. Only 20 people listen to the station!

  4. William Campbell

    A U.S. Senator has nothing to do with Maryland State laws! Our referendum questions are a distraction in this race. We need to find out what our senatorial candidates will do with our budget deficits, national healthcare, social security, defense, the environment, economic policy, employment, and ahost of other issues. This debate did not get us any closer to the information that we need. The only candidates that I have learned anything about are Senator Cardin and Mr. Bongino. Senator Cardin has been part of the mess in the Congress, and I do not believe that he is capable of fixing the problems. Mr. Bongino is an intelligent, thoughtful candidate who has gained my trust, and my vote. I urge all Maryland voters to vote for Dan Bongino!

  5. greg

    Sobhani is Pro-DREAM act as he stated in his interview with the Capital News Service. Or, he may be against it, as he stated during his interview with Pat McDonough. This guy is spineless and will say anything to get elected. He has taken opposing positions on Obamacare, gay marriage, abortion, gun control, taxes and others. He has no shame.

    • Looiqk

      Don’t believe this guys BS, he’s working for Bongino going around spreading disinformation, you should be ashamed. Bongino is a guy who sold socks for 6 months and thinks he’s qualified to run for senate, he’s a far right tea party nutjob with 0 chances of winning.

      • Bobby Brown

        As opposed to a career political prostitute like Cardin? I’ll take the non-politician. Our state needs new blood.

  6. Jason

    Disappointing that there is no MPT debate at least…I would think the local Baltimore news stations could partner up for at least one to replace their one of their 4:00, 5:00, 6:00 newscasts…could even have advertising breaks to help pay for it.

  7. abby_adams

    Too bad this forum wasn’t promoted in the media. Why no forum on MPTV stations? There are several political programs on PBS, why not a forum that taxpayer funds support? Whether you are for or against PBS funding, an open, unbiased forum on MPT would have more impact than having one on a low signaled radio station early in the morning. Guess we will have to wait for a privately funded DC tv station to broadcast the forum, on Halloween! Will My friend Ben be in his bagage handler duds? How about the other candidates, will they be in costume as well?

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