Steele gaining blacks’ support; hip-hop mogul on board
The Maryland Democratic Party’s traditional support among blacks appears to be slipping, now that hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons — who has helped register thousands of Democratic voters — hasendorsedRepublicanMichael S. Steele for the U.S. Senate.
Mr.Simmonsheldafundraiseron Aug. 24 at Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park for Mr. Steele, the lieutenant governor and the first black to win a statewide office in Maryland.
“Russell Simmons is one of the leading progressive voices in America,” said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.
“This is a major endorsement for LieutenantGovernorSteele that will help him attract young people, as well as black voters,” Ms. Brazile said. “Once again, this should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats not to take their most loyal constituents and voters for granted.”
Mr. Simmons, who promoted the rap group Run-DMC in the 1980s and has since built a media and clothing empire, helped the Democratic Party register hundreds of thousands of voters via the HipHop Summit Action Network, which he co-founded in 2001.
Mr. Simmons “definitely represents the younger generation. [. . .] He’s a pioneer, and hip-hop has become one thing that defines black youths in this country,” said Tyrell Ruff, a 19-year old Baltimore native.
“RussellSimmons [. . .] would definitely get some votes for Mr. Steele. If you look at black kids in the city, many of them would probably be wearing something he made,” said Mr. Ruff, a sophomore at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
CathyHughes,founderandchairman national radio conglomerate and the largestaimedatblackaudiences,also issupportingMr.Steeleandattended the Aug. 24 event.
“That’s huge,” said Eric Nelson, a 34-year old rapper and single father fromBaltimore.“Thetideisshifting.”
“These are both people who not only built extremely successful companies but companies that are activelyinvolvedintheircommunities,” SteelespokesmanDougHeyesaid.“It goes to whatMr. Steele talks about in building legacywealth.”
In their endorsements, Miss Hughes and Mr. Simmons praised Mr. Steele’s potential in the Senate above that of the Democratic candidates, including one of the board members of Mr. Simmons’ political action group — former NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume.
Mr.Mfume, the only black Democrat in the Senate race, is vying in a crowded field that includes U.S. Rep. BenjaminL.Cardin,thefront-runner, for the Sept. 12 primary nomination.