Snub in heav­ily-black Mary­land county proved fa­tal to Steele cam­paign

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jon Ward

Black vot­ers’ dis­like for Pres­i­dent Bush and dis­trust of Repub­li­cans sank Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s bid for Mary­land’s U.S. Se­nate seat, es­pe­cially in the ma­jor­i­ty­black, heav­ily Demo­cratic bat­tle­ground of Prince Ge­orge’s County, lo­cal black lead­ers said on Nov. 8.

“In an­other year, an­other era, an­other cli­mate, he may have been able to gain more trac­tion,” said Rep. Al­bert R. Wynn, a Prince Ge­orge’s Demo­crat who sup­ported Mr. Steele’s op­po­nent, Rep. Ben­jamin L. Cardin. “But it was just not atimethatanyRepub­li­can­couldbe suc­cess­ful.”

Many­black­Democrat­shad­com­plained that their party had ne­glected their con­cerns and can­di­dates. In ad­di­tion, many black re­li­gious, busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers — in­clud­ing for­mer Prince Ge­orge’s County Ex­ec­u­tive Wayne K.Cur­ryan­dall­five­black­mem­bers of the county coun­cil — en­dorsed Mr. Steele, a Repub­li­can.

None­the­less, Mr. Steele, the first black per­son elected to statewide of- fice in Mary­land, gained 23 per­cent of the vote in Prince Ge­orge’s, where he has lived for 20 years.

Mr. Cardin, a white 10-term con­gress­man from Bal­ti­more, won 76 per­cent of the county’s vote. In Septem­ber’s Demo­cratic pri­mary, he won 19 per­cent of the county’s vote and Kweisi Mfume, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple, won 71 per­cent.

“There­wasare­sound­ing­waveof re­sent­ment,” Mr. Curry said of the elec­tion re­sults. “This wasn’t an en­dorse­ment of the [Demo­cratic] party’s lead­er­ship. This was a re­jec­tion of the mess that Pres­i­dent Bush has cre­ated.”

Gov.RobertL.EhrlichJr.andMr. Steele had made in­roads into the black com­mu­nity in the past four years, and Mr. Steele aimed his cam­paign at ex­pand­ing Prince Ge­orge’sCounty’smid­dle­andup­per classes.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Repub­li­can, lost his re-elec­tion bid to Bal­ti­more Mayor Martin O’Mal­ley, a Democratwhoen­listedashis­run­ning­mate a black Prince Ge­orge’s County del­e­gate — An­thony G. Brown.

Mr.Steele­had“an­i­m­ageth­inghe had to over­come,” said Bishop Harry Jack­son, a Lan­ham pas­tor who was one of the can­di­date’s big­gest sup­port­ers among clergy.

“Some peo­ple just don’t trust Repub­li­cans,” Mr. Jack­son said. “In the post-civil rights era, there has been a feel­ing by blacks that the Repub­li­can Party was anti-the lit­tle guy and pro-state’s rights.”

State’s rights, he added, “is for many blacks still a code word for seg­re­ga­tion.”

S.A. Miller in Bal­ti­more con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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