Senator Cardin is a third generation Marylander. his grandfather was a Russian immigrant who ran a grocery store that grew into a wholesale food distribution company. The family name was changed from Kardonsky, and Ben’s father Meyer Melvin Cardin served in the Maryland House of delegates and was a judge on the Baltimore City Supreme Bench. He retired in 1977 and returned as a judge to Baltimore City Circuit Court. Ben Cardin married his high school sweetheart Myrna Edelman in 1964. The couple have a daughter Deborah. Their son Michael committed suicide in 1998.
In 2002, Ben’s 32 year old nephew Jon Cardin, a graduate of Maryland law school, ran for election as a delegate representing district 11 western Baltimore County. Since district 11 overlaps Congressional District 3, two Cardins were on the ticket that one election. At Jon’s grandfather, Meyer Cardin, who, at 95, was the oldest living former member of the House of Delegates, was present at the swearing in ceremony, as was Jon’s uncle Ben who said, “The next generation is taking over.”
Ben Cardin was first elected to the Senate in 2006, and in addition to serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he is also a member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. He has been a vocal environmental advocate, notably for protecting the Chesapeake Bay. Cardin has been a commissioner on the US Helsinki Commission for Human Rights since 1993 and was named special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance for the 57 nation Organization Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly. He has worked to expand small business ownership among women, minorities and veterans, sponsored legislation to broaden the availability of healthcare through the Parents Bill of Rights, and fought to include dental coverage for children, after a 12-year-old boy in Maryland died from complications arising from a tooth infection.
Senator Cardin’s daughter Deborah works at the Jewish Museum in Maryland and has two daughters, Madeline, 6, and Julia, 2. According to Southern Maryland online, “Religion is a key element in his life, and he tried to be home every Friday night when his family and his brother Howard’s family gather for dinner.” Apparently, Senator Cardin left a fundraising dinner once to go see his granddaughter who had lost a tooth. “That’s Ben,” said wife Myrna, “I know that we always come first.”
A friend, Jim Smith, commented that Senator Cardin was first in his class, but was so low key, few people realized it. His unassuming manner earned him early success: he was the youngest speaker of the House of Delegates at the age of 30. Smith said, “He is a very strong individual … his style is very unusual. It’s all about work.” Ken Harris, who as president of the Parent Teacher association consulted Senator Cardin, said, “I take Ben Cardin over a charismatic politician any day, or any stylish, appealing person, because Ben has substance.” Myrna said one of her husband’s most difficult moments politically was voting against the war in Iraq. “He thinks it through. I can tell if I am looking at him. He’s a thinker.”
Senator Cardin has been consistently pro-Israel. He has maintained a trusting attitude regarding Israel’s willingness to negotiate with the Palestinians, where others have expressed skepticism. He noted Israel’s rapid acceptance of Washington’s invitation to open peace talks, and said Hamas’ rejection was an “obstacle to peace.” Senator Cardin urged the blocking of an anti-Israel resolution that would allow the Palestinian Authority to sidestep direct negotiations with Israel. He noted that Israel has called for direct talks “anytime, anywhere without preconditions.” While Senator Cardin has theoretically accepted a two-state solution, he maintains that Palestinian statehood cannot be unilaterally declared at the UN, but must include a commitment to forswear terrorism and recognize the State of Israel. He insists that a Palestinian state that includes Hamas cannot be recognized unless Hamas swears off violence.