‘Party trumps race’ for Steele foes

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Still, Mfume spokesman Joseph P. Trippi said Mr. Steele opens himself to such criticism by defending Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for holding a Republican fundraiser in July at the all-white Elkridge Club in Baltimore.

“The facts are the facts. Ehrlich went to that country club, and Steele said it didn’t bother him,” Mr. Trippi said. “I think that says something … and should be part of this debate.”

Several club members told the Baltimore Sun that, though blacks are welcome as guests and there is no policy banning blacks from membership, the club never has had a black member in its 127-year history.

Democrats also have used the club for various events, including Peter O’Malley, brother of and adviser to Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democratic candidate for governor. Peter O’Malley held his wedding reception there in 2003.

State Sen. Verna Jones, Baltimore Democrat and vice chairman of the General Assembly’s legislative black caucus, said black Republicans deserve criticism because the Republican Party has not promoted the interests of the black community.

“The public policies supported by Democratic principles are the ones that most impact the African-American community,” she said. “I’m not saying [Mr. Steele] is a sell-out. That’s not for me to say.”

In July, however, Mr. Mfume noted how Republicans were rallying for Mr. Steele but his party had ignored his historic candidacy. “More voters in Maryland are carrying the impression that the Democratic Party talks the talk, but doesn’t always walk the walk. People may find a way to cross over in the fall,” he said.

Steele campaign spokesman Leonardo Alcivar said state Democrats are afraid of losing the black vote to Mr. Steele.

“That has caused a great tremble throughout the Maryland Democratic Party,” he said. “Of course [they are] going to condone racism. It’s nothing new, and it’s not surprising.”

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