Steele gain­ing blacks’ sup­port; hip-hop mogul on board

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jon Ward

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.

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