BALTIMORE, Nov. 8 (JTA) — The whimsical sign on the wall of the large, third-floor room of Baltimore’s Visionary Arts Museum summed up the light atmosphere of the Ben Cardin victory party. Under a sketch of Cardin wearing a mock George Washington wig were the words “Help Ben Cardin grow old and gray in service of his country.” Cardin long ago turned gray, is comfortably in his 60s and has been an elected official since 1967, currently sitting in the U.S. House of Representatives. But his rhetoric and passion in declaring victory late Tuesday night in the race for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat — shortly before the concession of opponent Lt. Gov. Michael Steele on midday Wednesday — defied the stereotype of one’s senior years as a time to relax. “We’re going to fight. We’re going to fight for what’s right for the people of this state and nation,” Cardin told his supporters just after 11 p.m., having entered to the blaring tones of U-2´s rock song “Where The Streets Have No Name.” “You heard what I said during the campaign,” Cardin told the enthusiastic crowd. “We’re going to fight so that every family in this nation has affordable health care. We’re going to fight to make sure that education is a real national priority.” He went on with his stump speech, including hammering away at a “responsible” way to bring the troops home from Iraq, which brought the night’s loudest applause. Speaking without notes, Cardin was flanked by state and Democratic Party officials such as U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes — who is stepping down — and U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings and Dutch Ruppersberger. He did not mention Steele directly or indirectly. Long-time Cardin supporters such as Stephen Mackler enjoyed the moment. “I have voted for him since I came to Maryland in 1974,” the Owings Mills resident said. “He’s been a career politician, but not what they normally quote as a career politician. He’s matriculated with various steps and always for growth. I think he’s a consensus-builder and that he’ll grow in the Senate as well.” Brandon Levy, 17, a Beth Tfiloh High School senior, was thrilled. He had canvassed neighborhoods and made telephone calls for Cardin. “This is good because it’s the end of one party being in control,” he said. “Bush is going to be challenged a lot more and there’s going to be a real debate on the issues.” The mood in the room had grown increasingly festive since about 9 p.m., when major news networks projected Cardin’s victory. Volunteers chatted and laughed when not dancing to the sounds of the Dunbar Jazz ensemble. As large TV screens tuned into national news networks kept broadcasting Democratic victories nationwide, cheers rippled through the room. Cardin closed his remarks by tossing out a few footballs — what he called “game balls” to key campaign staff and volunteers. He talked emotionally about his father, the late Judge Meyer Cardin, who died during the campaign “and is probably still wearing my lapel pin.” Cardin saved his final game ball for his wife, “my best friend and my best adviser, the love of my life.” Mrs. Cardin, who beamed throughout the speech, turned her head into her husband’s shoulder and hugged him as the crowd loudly chanted, “Myrna! Myrna!”
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