Black Democrats Back Steele For U.S. Senate

WaPo’s Metro section leads today with a story that key black Democrats in Maryland’s DC suburbs are endorsing Republican Michael Steele for the Senate.

A coalition of black Democratic political leaders from Prince George’s County led by former county executive Wayne K. Curry endorsed Republican Michael S. Steele’s bid for the U.S. Senate yesterday. The support from Curry, five County Council members and others barely a week before Election Day reflects their continued disappointment that the Democratic Party has no African American candidates at the top of the ticket and a sense that the county is being ignored, officials said. “They show us a pie, but we never get a slice,” said Major F. Riddick Jr., a former aide to then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening and a former county executive candidate. “We are here today to say we’ve waited and we’ve waited and we’re waiting no longer.”

Steele, who as lieutenant governor is the first African American elected statewide in Maryland, said he was humbled by the support. “I said I did not want this [campaign] to be so much about party but about the people,” he said. “And these people understand that.”

Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, said the endorsements could be significant. “This is going to go through the black community like a rocket,” he said. “It’s going to be the talk of the county, the state, maybe even the nation.”

Oren Shur, a spokesman for the Democratic Senate candidate, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, was more skeptical. “The endorsements will not make Prince George’s County residents forget that Michael Steele is George W. Bush’s handpicked candidate,” he said.

Walters and Shur are likely both right. This will indeed help black voters who are already considering a vote for Steele make that leap of faith. At the same time, the black vote will still go overwhelmingly to the Democrat.

Ed Morrissey notes another factor in this equation:

While Benjamin Cardin’s campaign continued to mumble about George Bush hand-picking Steele, these black politicians understand more that Cardin was hand-picked by the party establishment over the more well-known and potentially stronger Kweisi Mfume, the former NAACP leader and Congressman. His marginalization in the primary has come at a cost, and it’s starting to become significant.

Again, I don’t expect more than a third of Maryland’s black vote to go to Steele; indeed, a quarter would be optimistic. But that margin could well be the difference maker in a relatively tight race.

Still, Cardin has led the contest from the outset:

Steele - Cardin Maryland Senate Race 2006 Polling Trends

A 5.3% gap a week from the election is going to be hard to close.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2006, Race and Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mark says:

    A third of the black vote going to Steele? I think he is around 15% now. If Steele gets a third of the black vote, he is going to win comfortably.

  2. Fersboo says:

    A 5.3% gap a week from the election is going to be hard to close.

    I wonder if the polls and media are actually giving Cardin a push. I would call it within the margin of error and call the race a toss-up. Given that the seat has been held by a Democrat for 30+ years, I’m happy that it is this close.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Fersboo,

    It’s not a margin of error issue–these are averages of numerous polls and consistent over time. Now, there may be some sort of systematic bias at work but given that it’s a traditionally Democratic state, my guess would still be that Cardin pulls it out. That Steele is even making it a legit contest is noteworthy in and of itself.

  4. Fersboo says:

    James,

    I concur, but from my viewpoint as a partisan in a state that has been dominated by a Democrat machine for 30+ years, I look at the polls and say given the biases I know exist, the 5% gap is within the margin of error. If I remember the Erlich/Kennedy-Townsend race correctly, Kennedy-Townsend had around a 5% lead at this point.

  5. Pug says:

    How about the theory that a black candidate always polls better than they do on election day? Or does that only apply to black Democrats?

    I’ve heard it repeated as the conventional wisdom about the Ford-Corker race in Tennessee a number of times. Just ask the “Fox All-Stars”.

  6. Fersboo says:

    How about the theory that a black candidate always polls better than they do on election day? Or does that only apply to black Democrats?

    Yeah, but according to white, liberal Democrats, Michael Steele isn’t black.

  7. daveinboca says:

    I once lived in Prince George’s County where wealthy blacks and whites live in racial harmony, far from the cocktail chattering-class inane psychobabble of Montgomery County “liberals” who are all appendages of the US government sugar-daddy in D.C.

    Steele, who as lieutenant governor is the first African American elected statewide in Maryland, said he was humbled by the support. “I said I did not want this [campaign] to be so much about party but about the people,” he said. “And these people understand that.”

    Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, said the endorsements could be significant. “This is going to go through the black community like a rocket,” he said. “It’s going to be the talk of the county, the state, maybe even the nation.”

    The Maryland Dems are dependent on the black vote, but throw only occasional political crumbs to their single largest constituency. The unions and old-time Baltimore white nabobs control the party, and have selected one of their hacks, a party-line white limousine liberal, instead of a qualified black who was narrowly beaten in the primary.

    I hope Steele pulls out a victory, as the hypocritical smug stand-patism of the liberal Maryland Dems needs a shake-up very badly.

  8. […] A surprise in the Maryland senate race has people in the sphere talking. A coalition of black democrats from Prince George’s county have shifted their support to Steele. James Joyner of outside the beltway quotes the Washington Post article that has the story and says that he thinks a 5.3% gap will still be hard to close a week away from election day. […]

  9. Anderson says:

    where wealthy blacks and whites live in racial harmony

    Can you have a caption contest for a phrase?

  10. Soccer Dad says:

    Currying favor…

    via Memeorandum Wayne Curry, former Prince George’s County Executive and a number of other notable black Democrats have thrown their support behind Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele’s bid for the senate. Mr. Curry and the lawmakers said Democratic l…

  11. MGX649 says:

    As a black man I am ashamed of the actions of the Democrats in Prince Georges County and I feel that Micheal Steele should be equally ashamed. He has stated that he is against affirmative action yet the only reason these so called democratic leaders are backing him is because of his race. So I guess getting ahead sometimes means throwing your values out. I also notice that the republican party seems to think that this form of affirmative action is OK. I wonder why that is? It just angers me to see that even in today’s time race is being used as a factor in electing our leaders. Sorry Mr. Steele I just can’t vote for a man who’s only values are to win at all cost no matter what his race he is.