By Natalie Bland
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Republican Tony Campbell may not have much chance of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate in November, but he is taking to the campaign trail nonetheless to offer voters in heavily Democratic Maryland another choice on Election Day.
The 52-year-old Baltimore resident had only $6,423 on hand at the end of the June campaign finance filing period, according to the Federal Election Commission, while his opponent, U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, had more than $3 million.
In addition, a Goucher College poll conducted the week of Sept. 11 gave Cardin a strong lead, with 56 percent of likely voters saying they will vote for the Democratic incumbent and only 17 percent backing Campbell.
Nevertheless, Campbell said he is moving forward and is eager to have the opportunity to make real change in Maryland.
An adjunct political science professor at Towson University, Campbell’s main policies would focus on getting the national government out of education and making changes to the Veteran Administration’s health system.
“I would lead,” Campbell said in an interview. “I think it’s past time to have real discussions on gender and race and to have those discussions and not be afraid of those.”
Cardin is also looking to make a change with his campaign. Cardin is hoping another Senate win will “deliver a message to the White House.”
“I’ve been on the frontlines standing up to President Trump,” Cardin said in a statement released by a spokesperson. “We need a Congress that is willing to serve as a check and balance to protect Americans from the abuses of power coming from this president.”
Campbell is hoping to pull off a similar upset as Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who won a surprising victory over Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in 2014. But political analysts say that is probably unlikely.
“[The Goucher poll] tells me that [Campbell’s] campaign has struggled to break through to Marylanders,” said Towson University political science Professor John McTague. “Campbell probably needs a big boost from Governor Hogan in order to get back in the race.”
McTague said Campbell is facing different conditions than did Hogan four years ago.
“Tony Campbell doesn’t have the benefits that Hogan had when he ran in 2014—an unpopular opponent and a longstanding personal brand in Maryland politics thanks to Hogan’s father’s political career, among other factors,” McTague said. Hogan’s father was a U.S. congressman from 1969 to 1974.
In a historically blue state, Towson Professor Richard Vatz said it is important to have Republicans run in these races, despite it being difficult.
“Republicans cannot let irresponsible liberalism go unchecked,” Vatz said.
Vatz said Campbell has “excellent potential to be a great senator.” But he said Campbell is facing a difficult task.
“I am more skeptical about his ability to get publicity to challenge Ben Cardin,” said Vatz, who said he has contributed money to Campbell’s campaign.
Other Republicans acknowledge that it will be difficult to unseat Cardin on Nov. 6.
“The Maryland U.S. Senate race is challenging, but recent data released by the Tony Campbell campaign suggests that Ben Cardin is vulnerable,” said Patrick O’Keefe, a spokesperson for Dirk Haire, the chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. “As is the case with most candidates, the key to this election will be for Dr. Campbell to increase the number of people who are familiar with him.”
Campbell knows he has to get out in front of Marylanders, adding that he had visited eight counties around the state in just five days. He wants people to vote and to also know that he is “an average guy.”
“My point in doing this isn’t to get something or isn’t to get any kind of status,” Campbell said. “It’s just to do what I think needs to be done: say, communicate the message, to take a stand, to be a citizen leader and to do that and hopefully do that well.”
The gap between the two candidates’ campaign finances can impact how much Campbell is able to get in front of voters. It can be a large factor in the outcome of the race.
University of Maryland political science Professor James Gimpel, said the top factors impacting the race are “the incumbent’s name recognition, the lopsided Democratic majority in the state, and the inability of the Republican candidate to raise money.”
While there are many factors impacting the race to the Senate, both Cardin and Campbell agree that it comes down to the people of Maryland going to the polls on Election Day.
“I think that it’s going to be about turnout,” Campbell said. “If our people come out and vote then we have a really good shot. If they don’t then we won’t.”