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August 24, 2006
Russell Simmons Brings Black Votes To Michael Steele

The endorsement of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons appears to have opened the African-American voting bloc to Michael Steele, Maryland's Lt. Governor running for Paul Sarbanes' Senate seat. The Washington Times reports that appearances by Simmons on Steele's behalf has impressed some of the traditionally Democratic voters in Prince George County:

The Maryland Democratic Party's traditional support among blacks appears to be slipping, now that hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons -- who has helped register thousands of Democratic voters -- has endorsed Republican Michael S. Steele for the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Simmons is scheduled to hold a fundraiser tonight at Baltimore's Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park for Mr. Steele, the lieutenant governor and the first black to win a statewide office in Maryland.

"Russell Simmons is one of the leading progressive voices in America," said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

"This is a major endorsement for Lieutenant Governor Steele that will help him attract young people, as well as black voters," Ms. Brazile said. "Once again, this should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats not to take their most loyal constituents and voters for granted."

The real effects of the endorsement may not be fully known for weeks, and the Times does not present anything more than anecdotal evidence of a shift in support. However, almost anything more than 10% would be seen as a major inroad on the last safe demographic of the Democratic Party, and some have estimated Steele's reach at 25% or more. That number came before the Simmons endorsement.

Some may be surprised to see Donna Brazile supporting the notion that Simmons could shift the election, but she has some motivation to do so. Brazile has argued that the Democrats should unite behind Kweisi Mfume and jettison the more popular Benjamin Cardin, who leads in the Democratic primary and outpolls Steele. Brazile understands the strategic long-term threat that serious black conservative candidates represent to her party, and wants to see them countered with Democratic candidates that engage African-American voters.

This gets back to a problem that the Democrats have glossed over for several years. The Democratic Party has locked up this voting bloc so tightly that they see no real need to put African Americans into leadership positions. They continue to offer the same policies of big government while inner-city children remain locked in badly-performing schools. These voters want to hear other ideas and may want to try new policies to change the economic paradigms which trap a disproportionate amount of African-Americans, and that means giving the Republicans a chance. With the rise of significant black conservatives in the party to national prominence, more and more of them may find themselves tempted to pull the lever for Republicans and to spread their political influence into both parties.

That will not happen in this mid-term election; it will only happen over a long period of time, as the GOP promotes more African-Americans to positions of real power and elects more of them to Congress and the Senate. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, though, and Brazile understands that Steele and Simmons gets the GOP off to a running start.

CQ readers can contribute to Michael Steele or any of our other Congressional candidates through our Rightroots initiative. We have raised $44,000 for these critical races in this midterm election. Be sure to support these fine candidates in their efforts to hold the House and Senate for the GOP. John Hawkins has a new interview with Rightroots candidate David McSweeney on his site today as well.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 24, 2006 6:20 AM

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» Rise of Black Republicans? from It Shines For All
"The Maryland Democratic Party's traditional support among blacks appears to be slipping, now that hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons -- who has helped register thousands of Democratic voters -- has endorsed Republican Michael S. Steele for the U.S. Senate,... [Read More]

Tracked on August 24, 2006 7:32 AM

» African-American vote slipping away from Public Secrets: from the files of the Irishspy
From the Democrats, that is. For decades, the Democratic Party has taken the African-American vote in the United States as it's birthright, and Blacks have rewarded them by voting overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates, whether it served their intere... [Read More]

Tracked on August 26, 2006 1:42 AM


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