Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Race race -- Maryland Elections Update: It seems that Ben Cardin is headed for victory in the Maryland Democratic primary for Senate, defeating his African-American opponent Kweisi Mfume. This will set up an interesting dynamic, with the long-term Congressman, who is Jewish, taking on the African-American Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, in the general election. In the Attorney-General race, Doug Gansler has a surprisingly commanding lead over Stuart Simms, especially surprising because of all the voting problems in Gansler's home base of Montgomery County. Of course, there were similar problems in Simms' base of Baltimore City. The larger question is whether these results will spell future troubles for the Democratic Party, in Maryland...and beyond?

Many pundits and politicians have wondered what would be the effect on the African-American core of the Maryland Democratic Party if both Mfume and Simms lost. Mfume ran strong in P.G. County, and, I assume, also in Baltimore City, but Cardin seems to have been strong elsewhere, including Montgomery County. I mention this county, because it is home of the third black-white race in this trifecta of races for Maryland Democrats. In the race for County Executive, it appears that Ike Leggett, the African-American former Council leader, will handily defeat Steve Silverman, a relatively high-profile Jewish councilman in heavily Jewish Montgomery County. So, the County voters proved they could vote for the black candidate, but perhaps they needed to know him better. Or maybe, as is so much of politics, it was just strictly local issues -- here, a clash of personalities. Leggett is well-liked, and Silverman had a reputation for alienating others.

One can only hope that this result will help soften the reaction statewide to the defeats of Mfume and Simms, averting a racial schism in the Democratic coalition. Such a schism would be the worst result of all. Hopefully, the African-American community can unite behind Cardin's Senate candidacy.

Democrats hope that gubernatorial candidate Martin O'Malley's selection of an African-American running mate, Del. Anthony Brown, will lessen the blow to feelings in the black community. In '02, it was the Republican party that had a black candidate in the Lieut. Governor slot, and the Democratic candidate for Governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, was hurt by her failure to reach out to blacks with a reciprocal gesture. Anthony Brown is a much-admired figure. His presence on the ticket will make a difference in the race for Governor, but Democrats will hope his coattails extend down the ticket.

With Brown's name joining O'Malley at the top of the ticket, perhaps Cardin won't face the same kind of backlash, as he takes on Steele. It would be a devastating blow to the Party's effort to retake control of the Senate, if significant numbers of African-Americans crossed the aisle to support Michael Steele's candidacy and helped the Republicans pick up a seat there.

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