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“5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Ran For Office”, With Jon Cardin Maryland Legislative Candidate

I had the pleasure of interviewing, former delegate and candidate for the 11th district of Maryland, Jon Cardin

Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I grew up in a family uniquely dedicated to public service in Maryland. In the legislature, I sat in a seat formerly occupied by my uncle, Senator Ben Cardin, great uncle, Delegate Maurice Cardin, and grandfather, the Honorable Judge Meyer Cardin. With no lack of powerful role-models around the table at weekly family dinners, I learned early the value of humility and service — principles that continue to guide his life and work today. I earned a Juris Doctor with Honors from the University of Maryland School of Law in 2001; received a Master’s degree in Policy and Public Administration from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a Master’s degree with Honors in Judaic Studies from Baltimore Hebrew University (now at Towson University), both in 1996. My Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Tufts University was earned in 1992 and I am a 1988 alumnus of The Park School. Prior to studying law, I was recruited as executive director of The Project Judaica Foundation in Washington, DC and before that I began my career teaching Spanish and coaching lacrosse and basketball as faculty at Mercersburg from 1992 to 1994.

I live with his wife, Megan, two daughters Dorothy Maya and Micah Honor and our dog, Matilda. We attend Beth Tfiloh synagogue. Our entire Cardin gang still makes weekly dinners a priority, and I try to participate in a wide range of activities in our community. I have served on multiple boards and committees, most recently joining the board of the Jewish Community Center of Baltimore. My chairmanship of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Election Law Taskforce, and The American Council of Young Political Leaders led me around the country speaking on current issues of diplomacy and election security and reform. During the 2017 season, I coached my daughter’s soccer team with the Sacred Heart League. And in my free time, I enjoy watching Dorothy and Micah grow up, walking my dog, and training for triathlons.

During my 12 years serving my community as delegate (2003–2014), I defended constitutional rights and championed important causes to build a thriving, safe and empowered Maryland. I supported legislation to bring new business and jobs to our state. I introduced laws to protect our natural resources and our Bay. I promoted policies to protect women and families and combat cyberbullying, revenge porn and other threats to our youth.

Then, in 2014, despite my best efforts, I lost my bid for Attorney General. However, what I gained was a new, humbling perspective on politics. I thought balancing the needs of my constituents and family, and focusing on a campaign built around data-driven policy not personal attacks, would help me realize my potential. I ignored the abusive narratives rather than addressing them head-on, but at the end of the day, despite strong support from tens of thousands of Marylanders, my strategy did not prevail. I own my past decisions, they define who I am, and firmly believe that being a good politician and good person are not mutually exclusive.

As a result, I began an important new chapter in my life, marked by rediscovery of what’s most important. I’ve spent unprecedented quality time with my two beautiful girls, wife and pup. I’ve found new passions, built a public affairs firm with a trusted colleague and gained professional fulfillment in my law practice.

Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career or campaign?

When I was a freshman delegate, I was a huge advocate for biodiesel and energy efficiency. When I was at the National Conference of State Legislatures, I was invited to lease a biodiesel Smart Car for two months and brought it down to Annapolis during the legislative session. This was before smart cars came to America so it was an odd (and tiny) car with gas that had a funny smell of French fries. The night before my hearing on promoting energy efficient automobiles, I met my colleagues at a local bar for dinner and when I left to go home, my car was gone. As it turns out, four of my friends picked up my car, and walked it over to the House Building and put it outside the committee room where I was testifying the next day.

Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story of a particular person that you helped?

When it comes to civil rights and bigotry, I fought against anti-gay conversion therapy while everyone else was hush about it. When it comes to the environment, I was one of the earliest supporters of the renewable energy portfolio. When it comes to elections, I chaired the committee that wrote and passed the most comprehensive campaign finance reform and most meaningful election safety legislation our state has seen in 50 years. And when it comes to protecting our children and families, I leveraged my votes in the midst of unbearable pressure to make sure the Developmental Disability Administration was fully funded and that parents don’t have to worry when they drop their children off at school.

Let me tell you a story about a girl named Grace. Grace was a typical Howard County Teenager, except that Grace was being bullied, not by a schoolyard bully like the President, but being bullied at home, online. Every time she read an email, a tweet or a post, she was terrified by a schoolmate threatening her with violence, rape and humiliation. And these threats were being published for everyone to see. Grace began to skip school for weeks on end, but that did not stop the bullying, and so, Grace eventually took her own life. No one deserves to be treated that way! So you know what I did about it — in 2014, in the face of tremendous opposition, I brought the ACLU on one side and the States Attorneys on the other together to pass Grace’s Law, the toughest anti-cyber bullying legislation in the country.

Today that bill is being improved upon by State Senator Zirkin and legislatures nationwide. We live in a world where people are vulnerable and it is up to those of us who have a conscience to make sure that no one is so badly treated that they feel their only path is to take their life. I took action and will continue to fight for a civil society.

Yitzi: Which specific things do you plan to do to help the vulnerable in our society?

I will fight for full funding for the highly underfunded Developmental Disability Administration

I will fight to protect defenseless pets and animals that are tortured and discarded by puppy mills and neglectful owners

I will continue my fight for better on-campus safety, equal pay for women, equal protection for the LGBTQ community and adequate services for the less fortunate and poor.

I will continue the fight to get dirty money out of politics and make sure our elections are safe and free from undue influence.

I will strengthen our recycling laws. I will advocate for bicycle safety and I will use my experience and confidence to speak truth to power

Yitzi: This is clearly not an easy job. What drives you?

All citizens deserve access to justice and a devotion to their issues. I am invigorated by the use of policy expertise, legal background, and passion to help others. It was how my grandfather trained me. Truth be told, I miss serving and leading the charge for a stronger, safer Baltimore County. I’m deeply concerned about the trajectory of our civil liberties, women’s rights, the vulnerability of the disenfranchised, our economic vitality, youth safety online, the environment and election security. Issues I championed representing the 11th District — including chairing the Election Law subcommittee — have taken on new meaning in this polarizing and complex political environment.

Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first Ran For Office” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

-I wish I was told that Door knocking is exhausting but opens your heart to your community. Having more kitchen table conversations with Marylanders is something I learned to value in my campaign for delegate. In my 2014 statewide race, having hundreds of conversations a day but each one lasting just a few minutes, drove me to realize how these conversations were so important on a local level.

- Wish I was told to be myself when presented with challenges rather than pursue the calculated political responses. We have to always take our jobs seriously, but sometimes take ourselves not so seriously.

-I wish I was told to enjoy the solitary moments whenever I had them. Even car rides included call time and late nights were often filled with events and strategy calls. Making time for family is so hard!

-I wish I was told how inspired I would be by the level of political activism and engagement from everyday Marylanders. This is probably what inspired me to return to serve these people who seek strong leadership and hold their representatives accountable.

-I wish I was told the fight does not end when a bill passes. For example, even after passing Grace’s Law, I learned that suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens, trailing only auto accidents. We must continue to work with teachers, parents, and mental health professionals to provide safe spaces for youth in classrooms, at home, and online.


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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.