- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 4, 2006

BALTIMORE — Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele yesterday took his campaign for the U.S. Senate onto downtown’s streets, where he was joined by Michael Mfume, son of former NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume, who narrowly lost the Democratic nomination to run against Mr. Steele.

“He’s about change,” Michael Mfume, a 36-year-old film and music video producer, said of Mr. Steele. “He’s not the standard politician.”

Michael Mfume joined Mr. Steele, a Republican, to wave at passing cars in the city’s distressed Park Heights neighborhood. Baltimore is “the sleeper” in the Senate race, which in recent weeks focused on black voters in Prince George’s County, an aide to Mr. Steele said.

The alliance with the younger Mr. Mfume was another indication that Mr. Steele — the first black person elected statewide in Maryland — has the capacity to win over black voters, who account for a third of the Maryland electorate and traditionally support Democrats.

Polls show the race is a dead heat between Mr. Steele and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic nominee.

Mr. Cardin yesterday dismissed Michael Mfume’s involvement with the Steele campaign.

“Voters know the difference on the issues,” he said after delivering an anti-war speech at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he was joined by Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton administration.

Kweisi Mfume lost the primary to Mr. Cardin but won the vote by large margins in Prince George’s County and Baltimore, two of the state’s most populous and heavily Democratic jurisdictions. They are also more than 65 percent black.

Shortly after Kweisi Mfume lost the primary, the younger Mr. Mfume endorsed Mr. Steele.

Mr. Cardin, a white 10-term congressman from Baltimore, has struggled to woo black voters amid criticism the Democratic Party takes black voters for granted and had blocked Kweisi Mfume’s candidacy.

Prominent black Democrats in Prince George’s County — including former county Executive Wayne K. Curry, all five black members of the county council and several ministers — broke party ranks last week to support Mr. Steele.

However, Mr. Cardin has enlisted nationally recognized Democrats to energize the voter base and shore up black support. He rallied thousands of supporters Friday in Prince George’s County with Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat and the only black senator. It was Mr. Obama’s second visit in six weeks to the county to campaign for Mr. Cardin.

President Bill Clinton is scheduled to return tonight to Prince George’s County, also to campaign a second time with Mr. Cardin.

In his speech yesterday, Mr. Cardin continued to press his case that Mr. Steele supports the Iraq war and is too closely allied with President Bush. The war and Mr. Bush are extremely unpopular in heavily Democratic Maryland.

“We know the current strategy isn’t working [in Iraq] and we are in the middle of a civil war,” Mr. Cardin said. “Mr. Steele, knowing what we know now, says he would still do it the same way.”

Mrs. Albright said the Iraq war could go down in history as “the greatest disaster in American foreign policy.”

Mr. Cardin has made his vote against invading Iraq the cornerstone of his campaign and cites his anti-war vote as the prime example of how he “stood up to President Bush.”

However, he has been criticized by Green Party candidate Kevin Zeese for repeatedly voting to fund the war and for voting against requiring Mr. Bush to submit an exit strategy. Mr. Cardin has not directly responded to the criticism.

Mr. Steele has said he supports the aim of the war but has called for a new plan that includes an exit strategy. He says withdrawing U.S. troops prematurely from Iraq could create a potentially worse situation.

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