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Staff writer

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) was declared the winner in his bid for re-election Tuesday, with Republican Daniel Bongino and independent Rob Sobhani splitting the opposition.

Cardin won with 55.2 percent of the vote with 100 percent of the state’s precincts reporting.

Bongino, a former Secret Service agent, came in second with 26.6 percent, followed by Sobhani, a former Republican who ran two previous Senate campaigns, in third with 16.9 percent.

“It’s very rewarding to see the confidence shown by the voters,” Cardin said Tuesday night.

The voters wanted a serious candidate to get the deficit under control and who was willing to work across party lines to tackle the issues, Cardin said.

Cardin praised Bongino, who had called to congratulate him earlier in the evening.

“He ran a class race and energized his grass roots,” Cardin said.

Bongino struck up a friendship with Cardin on the campaign trail, Bongino said.

“Even though we disagree on the issues, you know where he stands,” Bongino said.

Sobhani blanketed the radio and television airwaves through his largely self-financed campaign — he had loaned his campaign $6.4 million by the Oct. 17 financial disclosure report, in just the first six weeks of his campaign.

Sobhani was able to buy name recognition, but voters were unable to tell what Sobhani stood for in his 30-second commercial spots, said Shawn Parry-Giles, a political science professor at the University of Maryland College Park.

Even in an anti-incumbent environment, Cardin was able to win re-election handily with his opposition split, she said.

Though heavily favored in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin, Cardin, 69, campaigned aggressively.

Bongino, 37, won a crowded Republican primary field, picked up endorsements from conservative icons such as Sarah Palin and spoke frequently on Fox News about his race. But the September entry of Sobhani, 52, of Potomac, appeared to take away more support from Bongino than from Cardin.

Sobhani touted his independence in his latest bid.

However, Republicans and Democrats both criticized Sobhani for running what they called misleading advertisements, with Sobhani running a flier in Prince George’s County with Barack Obama’s photo on the cover and urging people to vote for Obama and Sobhani inside. Cardin was the first senator endorsed by Obama in the 2012 election cycle.

Sobhani also drew ire and a Federal Election Commission complaint from Bongino for running a robo-call telling voters Sobhani was the real conservative in the race and failed to include the required disclaimers with the identifying information of which campaign was paying for the calls.