Mfume, Steele, & Cardin US Senate Race
When U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes announced he would retire from the senate it set in motion one of the rare events in Black Politics. For the first time since literally reconstruction there might be a legitimate race between two African-Americans for the United States Senate (trust me you can discount the race between Alan Keyes and Barack Obama).
Jumping out the gate first was Kweisi Mfume. Mfume, resigns his post as Executive Director of the NAACP and announces he will run for the seat. The move was smooth, strategic, and timely. Get out in front and squelched any other Black democrat from seeking the democratic nomination. To most political observers his name recognition and early announcement would surely bring him media attention.
At his annoucement which was held in downtown Baltimore, the former congressman laid out his plans, "My task over the course of this campaign will be to engage everyone who will listen about why what we do in this election is so very important to what we will be able to do in the future.
My role will be to give a new voice to issues affecting everyday working men and working women, as well as the families that they are a part of. My goal will be to build coalition across racial, religious and ethnic lines. At the end of the day we can't allow ourselves to be divided one region of the state against the other or one group in the state against the other. Our ability to work together will always be found in our similarities, not in our differences.
I was taught as a child to work hard play by the rules, love my country and cherish my faith. I am a product of poverty like so many others who are black, Latino, Asian or white. Like them, I too learned first hand why hard work, decency, respect and a commitment to values are important.
I can't be bought, I won't be intimidated and I don't know how to quit.
I'm not looking for fame and I have no need to be validated. I want to go to the United States Senate to make a real difference on behalf of the people of this state and the people of this nation."
On the surface this is a noble/passionate appeal but, with all due respect it will not convince those outside your normal constituency to vote for you especially white democrats. Recent history in the state will tell you that democrats in Maryland do not march in lock step. The middle of state is closer to blue and the edges are closer to red (a reference to democrats and republicans)
There are other issues which continue to come my way which you will here about.
By April 26, 2005, Mfume would not be alone in the democrat race for the U.S. Senate, Congressman Ben Cardin through his hat in the ring. With Baltimore's inner harbor as backdrop, Cardin announced his candidacy. "I believe in an America that keeps its promises. I will work to ensure that Social Security remains a guaranteed benefit for the elderly and disabled. I will fight any attempt to weaken it by diverting money into private accounts.
As your Senator, I'll make sure our workers can compete on a level playing field. And, I'll make sure we can compete with any workers in the world so we keep good jobs here in America. "
As the former Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegate in Annapolis, Rep. Cardin has many favors he can call in, and took little time to do so. If there is one issue to get Maryland democrats united it's social security. With his primary constituency in the jewish community he will have little problem in raising money. Put that together with endorsements from the state's senior congressman, Rep. Steny Hoyer, and money for other potential democrat candidates will dry up quickly.
Once again with all due respect to the congressman, he needs to understand the current make up of the state (revisit my comments about red and blue). Another issue that Cardin may not be aware of is "Black Backlash." This issue is somewhat out of his control but, he can intensify or smooth it over.
The Democrats in Maryland made a misjudgment about whether to run an African-American with Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Her pick of a white Republican did piss-off some democrats(especially some Black Democrats). I'm not certain if this go-round the black electorate will be as forgiving. Lastly, check out who Mayor Martin O'Malley or County Executive Doug Ducan pick as there running mates.
If there is a perception of Cardin being the "great white hope," and he proceeds to vilify Mfume in the primary it could keep African-Americans away from the polls or send them to the Republican nominee.
Lt. Gov. Michael Micheal Steele, has not officially announced but, my sources say he will run in the Republican primary uncontested. The reason, he's a FOB (a friend of Bob Erhlich). The governor's selection of Steele was brillant in his first run for the state house. Most Blacks perceived the Republican Party in the state as for whites only. Steele provide a different face that allowed marginal white women voters (not Black voters) the ability to be comfortable with voting for a Republican.
Despite potential pitfalls Erhlich/Steele have done better than what most expected. The governor's popularity has never been higher and therefore losing Steele isn't a liability. Hoping to cash in on what Erhlich sees as Maryland Republican revolution they would wipe out the losses the GOP have had in the state.
The issue for Steele is will white Marylanders hold their nose and vote for African-American? Yeah, we know the Republicans will but, will "Blue Dog" Democrats? The other issues for Steele will be abortion, social security, and defense. Defense is the easiest but, the other two will keep his head spinning.
The race will heat up interest not only locally but, from other quarters. Stay tunned in for my observations.