Black business owners and religious leaders say there is an undercurrent of discontent with the Maryland Democratic Party’s lack of black statewide candidates and think it will encourage support for Republicans—especially Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s run for the U.S. Senate.
“There’s a lot of nervousness. You got a whole lot of black folks who are going to move towards Steele and possibly [Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.],” said Wayne Frazier, a black business leader in Baltimore and a supporter of Mr. Steele’s opponent, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin.
The Baltimore Sun yesterday reported that Maryland’s 10 black state senators met last week with Mr. Cardin and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the Democratic nominee for governor, to register complaints that the party’s top candidates for statewide office are white men.
The black senators, dubbed the “Committee of Ten,” told Mr. Cardin and Mr. O’Malley, who are both white, that they are hearing about discontent among their constituents over the party’s lack of diversity.
“There’s a hue and cry out there of disillusionment based on what happened in the primary,” said state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, Baltimore Democrat.
In the Democratic Senate primary, Mr. Cardin defeated Kweisi Mfume, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, after having received strong support from House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., both white.
However, Mr. Mfume trounced Mr. Cardin in the majority black voting districts of Prince George’s County and Baltimore, which will figure large in next month’s general elections.
The Democratic nominees for the state’s four top races—the Senate, governor, attorney general and comptroller—are all white men. Mr. O’Malley’s running mate, Delegate Anthony G. Brown of Prince George’s County, is black.
“I feel strongly that we in the Democratic Party should have had an African-American running for one of the statewide positions,” said Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Prince George’s County Democrat who supported Mr. Cardin over Mr. Mfume.