Dr. Peter Beilenson, the former Baltimore Health Commissioner, has outpaced Democratic opponents in the race for Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District by raising $235,000 so far, about $88,000 more than his closest rival.

      Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore 

At least six Democrats are jostling for the seat held by Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, who is running to replace U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., who retires next year.

Four 3rd District candidates, including Sarbanes’ son, John, raised more than $100,000 in the third quarter of this year, which ran from July 1 to Sept. 30, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Beilenson posted the most cash on hand, $170,000.

“To have four candidates with six-figure totals is, I think, an indication of a pretty high level of interest in the race across the board,” said William Galston, director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland.

Sen. Paula Hollinger, D-Baltimore County, who announced her candidacy in July, ranks second in fund-raising with $147,000. Oz Bengur, Maryland Democratic Party treasurer and an investment banker from Rodgers Forge, and John Sarbanes, a Baltimore lawyer, raised $104,000 and $102,000, respectively.

All attributed Beilenson’s fund-raising lead to his campaign’s early start in June. Bengur announced his candidacy Oct. 5 and Sarbanes will formally announce Oct. 26.

The field continues to be in flux. Delegate Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, will not run, he told Capital News Service. The congressman’s nephew was often mentioned as a possible contender.

Jon Cardin had “very, very seriously” considered joining the race but had instead decided to “stay put” for the benefit of his constituents and the state, he said. He said he will make an official statement soon.

Kevin O’Keeffe, a former senior aide to Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens, will file his candidacy next week, O’Keeffe said.

Candidate Bill Burlison, an Anne Arundel County Council member, did not make fund-raising figures available. Candidates are only required to file a statement of candidacy and financial disclosure reports with the FEC if they raise more than $5,000.

Although far from “eye-popping,” the numbers indicate Democrats are in for “a pretty hotly contested nomination,” Galston said.