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