Michael Steele picked up an important endorsement yesterday; in fact, he picked up several of them, all Democrats, and all from the Democratic bastion of Prince George’s County. The county executive and five of the county councilors joined more Democrats from the community in repudiating the Democratic Party’s disregard for their county and their lack of African-American candidates:
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.”
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.
These aren’t just any politicians in Maryland. These people rose through the Democratic Party and won their offices with the party’s support. They have benefitted to some significant degree from the party — and yet their dissatisfaction at Benjamin Cardin and his selection as the nominee has led them to repudiate their party. It’s a signal that the Democrat’s most loyal constituency may rethink their decision to vote in lock step for a party that has ceased engaging them. Wayne Curry noted this when he said, “The party acts as though when they want our opinion they’ll give it to us,” promising an end to that dynamic.
In Maryland, Democrats comprise 56% of the electorate while Republicans only have 25% of voter registrations. This state is among the bluest in the nation in that sense, and yet they managed to elect a Republican governor four years ago. Prince George’s County has just fired a warning shot across the bow of the Democrats, and it might have sunk Cardin’s hopes for the Senate. Maryland voters, especially those in PCG, will notice this endorsement and reconsider their opinion of Michael Steele. The Democrats better hope that they can contain the damage to Maryland.