- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 13, 2002

Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend the Democratic front-runner in the governor's race is stepping up efforts to woo voters in the Washington suburbs, where she opened campaign offices yesterday.

But signs of trouble were as clear as the new banners at field offices in Montgomery and Prince George's counties heralding her and her running mate, retired Adm. Charles Larson, who twice served as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and was commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.

Not one black state or county lawmaker showed up for yesterday's events even in Prince George's, where blacks make up the majority of the population.

And black leaders say the reason is their simmering disappointment that Mrs. Townsend passed over many worthy minority candidates for her ticket, instead tapping a white man who was a Republican until last month.

Although more than 25 percent of Maryland residents are black, no black candidate has been elected to statewide office in Maryland a fact that frustrates Marylanders who consider their state more progressive than neighboring Virginia, where the nation's first black governor, L. Douglas Wilder, was elected almost 13 years ago .

"It's a question of respect and of arrogance," said a high-ranking elected black Democrat, who asked not to be identified by name. "Any level of her success is going to be built on a traditional black coalition. And this means nothing is going to change for four years."

On the other hand, Mrs. Townsend's fumble improves chances for a black Republican to gain statewide office, the same official said, referring to Michael S. Steele, the running mate of Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the GOP front-runner.

Mrs. Townsend's choice left her "no likelihood of gaining significant independent and conservative votes," the Democratic official said.

And the gap between these candidates may be so narrow that the Republican Ehrlich-Steele ticket can win the election even though Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 2 to 1 by taking only 5 percent of the black vote from her.

In brief remarks at the Prince George's event in Largo, Mrs. Townsend told the crowd, "The admiral believes in diversity, inclusion and bringing the best people in."

Questioned about black Democrats' discontent, Mrs. Townsend and Adm. Larson said they had lifelong commitments to diversity and inclusion.

Asked about the absence of black Democratic officials, her aides said, "bBut the people are here."

Fairmount Heights Democrat Nancy Dixon-Saxon said she approved of Mrs. Townsend's choice of the admiral.

"I'm a Washingtonian; I've known the Kennedy family since I was a little girl," said Mrs. Dixon-Saxon, who is black and lives near Andrews Air Force Base. "We're in a war. Let's be real."

Last night, the Townsend campaign was set to begin airing the second of two one-minute television spots that are the first ads of the campaign. Both center on her family, commitment to public service and accomplishments.

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