- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2006

BALTIMORE — Sen. John McCain last night raised money for Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s campaign for the U.S. Senate — and said he will be back to raise more money soon.

“I will be coming back on several occasions between now and November to help this campaign,” said Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican. “I really feel this is a very important and winnable race.”

Republicans “have no African-American senators in the United States Senate,” he told reporters before the fundraiser. “We need fresh viewpoints. We need debate within our own party.”

Mr. Steele, the first black to win a statewide election in Maryland, said he was “looking forward to being another independent voice — a maverick, if you will — and learning from the best.”

Maryland Democrats, who have tried to tie Mr. Steele to the Bush administration and President Bush’s low poll numbers, said Mr. McCain’s visit shows he is getting advice from Mr. Steele on how to appeal to the Republicans’ conservative base.

State Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman noted Mr. McCain’s support for embryonic stem-cell research, which Mr. Steele opposes.

“McCain must really be trying to burnish his right-wing conservative credentials if he’s raising money for Michael Steele,” Mr. Lierman said.

Mr. McCain said the disagreement between himself and Mr. Steele on that issue shows the kind of healthy “diversification” of views he wants in the Republican Party.

Mr. Steele was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The invitation-only fundraiser was held at a private home and was closed to the press. The Steele campaign did not say how many people were expected to attend or how much money he expected to raise.

Both Mr. Steele and Mr. McCain stand to gain from the event, political leaders said.

Mr. Steele is a rising star among conservative Republicans. Mr. McCain, who challenged President Bush for the nomination in 2000, has earned wide popularity for his independent stances and has sought to shore up his support among party conservatives.

Mr. Steele is vying for the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, who is retiring.

In a new Internet commercial, Mr. Steele criticizes a Washington culture of “congressmen on the take and lobbyists eager to make a deal.”

He says he wants “to shake things up.”

“If we are going to get a different kind of government, we have to elect a different kind of senator somebody who will talk straight about what is wrong in both parties.”

Mr. Steele is aiming to attract Democratic voters, who outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in Maryland, and he has criticized the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina.

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