Friday, January 13, 2006

Endorsements for U.S. Senate candidates are dividing along racial lines in Maryland's Democratic Party

S.A. Miller:

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is white, has received more than 100 endorsements for his Senate bid, but just seven have come from black Democratic officials.

Kweisi Mfume, who is black and the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has received 29 Senate endorsements, but just two have come from white Democratic officials.

Racial issues have disquieted state Democratic leaders, who have borne long-standing complaints of ignoring black voters that Mr. Mfume himself reiterated during a speech last summer.

What's more, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele -- the first black to win a statewide office -- has been the target of racially tinged criticism for being a conservative Republican. Several black Democratic lawmakers in Baltimore condoned such criticism until state leaders such as Mr. Mfume and Rep. Albert R. Wynn repudiated race-baiting.

Meanwhile, the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for governor -- Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, both white -- have sought to include black politicians on their tickets. Mr. O'Malley already has tapped Delegate Anthony G. Brown of Prince George's County as his running mate.

Derek Walker, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said the Senate endorsements do not reflect a racial divide within the party.

"This is a pretty ... unified party and it will continue to be," he said. "Both [candidates] have and will continue to get support from community leaders and elected officials of all backgrounds."

However, Delegate Darryl A. Kelley, a black Prince George's County Democrat, said he is disturbed by "those stark numbers."

"It is surprising that Mfume does not have more support from the white community, at least from the elected officials," said Mr. Kelley, who has endorsed Mr. Mfume. "The Democratic Party still struggles with some racial issues in terms of electing an African-American candidate on his own statewide."

Divided they may fall

Black Democrats Complain About Support For Cardin

Early Support for Cardin Stirs Talk of a Backlash

'Pundits' Try to Bolster Cardin, Mfume Says

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