Arguing that the two-party system is corrupt, a
Rob Sobhani, 52, who announced his candidacy this month, is the first candidate to buy television ads in the general election race for the seat now held by Sen.
"Our politics is broken," Sobhani, a political economist and energy entrepreneur from Potomac, says in one 30-second spot. "How do we fix our economy, create jobs and restore our future? Career politicians,
Sobhani turned in 77,000 signatures to the Maryland Board of Elections to get his name on the Nov. 6 ballot as an independent. He has spent $1.5 million of his own money on airtime in the Baltimore and Washington markets.
In his campaign headquarters in an office tower in Bethesda, Sobhani explained his motivations for running.
"I love this country," he said. "My family had to escape the persecution in
Born in Kansas to Iranian parents, Sobhani grew up there, in Turkey and in Iran. The family returned to the United States after the Islamic Revolution of
He faces an uphill climb running for Senate. Independent candidates — running without the support of the organized parties and their networks of fundraisers, strategists, field operatives and volunteers — seldom win election to Congress.
The three independents now serving in the Senate are an unusually high number for modern times. They include
The third independent senator is
Sobhani's political history includes Republican primary losses to
The political website RealClearPolitics, the Rothenberg Political Report and other independent analysts consider Maryland a safe state for the incumbent, Cardin.
"Senator Cardin is running his race the same way he has before," Cardin spokeswoman Sue Walitsky said. "He continues to travel around the state, to talk to constituents, to talk to voters, to talk about his accomplishments over the last five and a half, six years in the Senate.
"Whether there is one candidate running against him or five candidates running against him, he will continue his race."
After Sobhani announced his run, the Cardin campaign sent a fundraising email to supporters warning of a new, "self-funded opponent."
"You have to develop a volunteer force, a team willing to go out there, look the voters in the eye, say, 'This is my candidate, here's why I support him.' Can you win an election 50 days out just with television commercials? We've been knocking on doors for 16 months."
Sobhani acknowledges the challenge, but says he sees a path to victory.
"I'm not spending my hard-earned money to lose." Voters deserve "a third alternative," he said, because "both political parties have let us down."
Sobhani, who says he has made money on energy deals between U.S. and foreign businesses, touts a five-point plan to attract $5.5 billion in economic development to Maryland.
He says he would rely on public-private partnerships to invest $3 billion in roads and bridges and $1 million in homes in inner-city Baltimore. He would draw on nonprofits to support hundreds of millions of dollars for
And he promises to find new markets for $1 billion worth of Maryland products in his first term, or he won't run for a second.
"I'm the only credible candidate in this race, because I can do what no one can do," he said. "Neither Senator Cardin nor Dan Bongino can bring $5.5 billion into the state of Maryland and change the way we do business on Capitol Hill."
The immediate challenge is to introduce himself and his ideas to voters in the weeks that remain before the election. He continues to air television advertisements and wants to participate in the debates planned by Cardin and Bongino.
Bongino, having negotiated the debates with Cardin, says he does not want to "make unilateral statements" about other participants. Walitsky, the Cardin spokeswoman, says if Sobhani were to participate in the debates, the others running for the seat —
Sobhani says Maryland voters "deserve to have a third choice."
"They deserve to see Senator Cardin make his case for re-election, Mr. Bongino make his case, Rob Sobhani make his case," he said. "If we don't allow that, we've only hurt the people of Maryland."
Profession: Political economist, entrepreneur, author. Chairman and CEO, Caspian Group Holdings
Education: B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Georgetown University
Family: Married, two children