- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002

BALTIMORE Republican nominee Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s point man in Baltimore City, state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, said yesterday his gubernatorial candidate wins the election if he captures just 20 percent of the state's black vote.
"We don't need to win the black community to win this election. We only need 20 or 25 percent," said Mr. Mitchell, a Democrat and heir to a black political dynasty in Baltimore who threw his support behind Mr. Ehrlich early in the campaign.
But 20 percent of the black vote is a tall order in a state where Republican candidates are lucky to get 10 percent of that traditionally Democratic bloc. And Mr. Ehrlich's campaign team believes the fight for those votes is going to get tougher, as they anticipate an onslaught of racially charged attacks from Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
"What they have done already shows that they will be injecting race [into the campaign] in a negative way," he said. "They will use it. The question is: Will it work?"
Mr. Mitchell cited last week's raucous gubernatorial debate at Morgan State University as evidence of the lieutenant governor's willingness to play the "race card."
Mrs. Townsend used imagery of "slavery" and "lynching" when she accused Mr. Ehrlich of opposing affirmative action. The majority-black audience hooted, booed and catcalled as Mr. Ehrlich, his black running mate and their families enteredthe auditorium, and during Mr.Ehrlich's attempts to speak during the debate.
Mr. Mitchell lost his bid for a second term as state senator in the Democratic primary election last month, losing by a more than 2-to-1 margin to Verna L. Jones. Mr. Mitchell's campaign was hampered by an ethics reprimand from the legislature and the ire of Democratic leaders for his outspoken support of Mr. Ehrlich.
Mr. Mitchell, who has said Democrats take black voters for granted and threatened to leave the party earlier this year, won 30 percent of the vote in the 44th District the district with the state's highest black majority and highest ratio of Democratic voters despite his close ties with Mr. Ehrlich.
"If Bob does that, he's governor," Mr. Mitchell said.
The Townsend campaign does plan to air commercials that draw attention to Mr. Ehrlich's record on minority issues, said campaign spokesman Len Foxwell, but he said the ads can't be construed as race baiting.
"We've never engaged in a personal attack and we've never gone negative," Mr. Foxwell said. "All we have done is expose Bob Ehrlich as the far-right conservative that he really is."
At last week's debate, Richard Montgomery, an administrator at the Community College of Baltimore County, was undecided when he sat down in the audience. He walked away intending to vote for Mrs. Townsend. He said Mr. Ehrlich did not seem to support working-class blacks, despite the fact that he chose a black running mate in Michael S. Steele.
Mr. Ehrlich's campaign manager, Chip DiPaula, said they have been preparing to fend off racially charged attacks since the campaign began.
Mr. Ehrlich campaigned heavily in black communities in Baltimore and Prince George's County in anticipation of the day when the Democrats play the race card, he said.
"Since day one, Bob has talked about the pending onslaught of negative campaigning and racial divisiveness. He has tried to prepare the media and the public not to be hoodwinked by it," Mr. DiPaula said.
He said the Ehrlich campaign had learned the lessons of former Republican gubernatorial nominee Ellen Sauerbrey. Her loss in 1998 has been blamed partly on the racial politics employed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
Polls showed Mrs. Sauerbrey winning 20 percent of the black vote before a campaign blitz late in the race likened her politics to those of Alabama segregationists in the '50s and '60s. She ultimately won about 10 percent of the black vote and lost the election by less than 1 percent of the total vote.

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