- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Boxing promoter Don King yesterday campaigned with Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in Prince George’s County and Baltimore, telling black voters to support Mr. Steele’s U.S. Senate candidacy even though he is a Republican.

“For black people, there can’t be a fealty to party. That’s not fidelity to truth,” said Mr. King, a Republican.

With his trademark hair standing straight up, Mr. King appeared with Mr. Steele at a cafe in Largo Town Center and then on a street corner in West Baltimore. The two then visited a youth boxing center.

Mr. King criticized the state Democratic Party for not promoting black leaders.

“You don’t have any black faces on the Democratic ticket,” Mr. King said. “John Kennedy said sometimes party loyalty asks too much.”

The Democratic nominees for the top four statewide races — governor, Senate, attorney general and comptroller — are all white men. Delegate Anthony G. Brown, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, is black.

Mr. Steele is the first black to win a statewide election in Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1.

Black political, business and religious leaders have noted growing discontent among black voters, who compose about 40 percent of registered Democrats and have been the party’s most loyal voting bloc.

Mr. Steele seized on that sentiment yesterday at the cafe in Largo. He displayed a recent photograph of his Democratic opponent, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, campaigning with Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. All three are white men.

“I see the leadership that’s sitting down at the table to talk about the future. I don’t see us represented,” Mr. Steele said to the predominantly black audience of about 40 people. “You are at my table, friends.”

A Cardin spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Cardin’s primary criticism of Mr. Steele has been that the lieutenant governor was recruited by President Bush and supports the president’s policies.

Mr. King, who campaigned for Mr. Bush in 2004, yesterday said that he “loves” the president for promoting blacks to top spots within his administration.

“I love George Walker Bush for what he did symbolically,” Mr. King said.

Mr. King rose to fame and fortune by promoting boxers such as Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, but also has had legal troubles that include a manslaughter conviction, for which he served four years in prison. He referred to his checkered past yesterday.

“I must have an indictments list longer than his awards list,” Mr. King said, comparing himself with Mr. Steele.

Racial politics in Maryland has focused on the Democratic efforts to secure support among blacks and Mr. Steele’s ability to thwart those efforts.

For instance, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who has supported Democratic candidates and causes, endorsed Mr. Steele in August and has appeared with him in campaign ads.

Republican lawmakers in rural parts of Maryland yesterday said that Mr. King’s endorsement of Mr. Steele will not turn off white voters.

“[Mr. King] is a successful guy in a very iffy sport,” said Delegate Richard A. Sossi, Eastern Shore Republican. “I don’t think that’s going to be a big issue one way or the other.”

Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell, Southern Maryland Republican, said Mr. Steele “appeals to a broad spectrum of people.”

“I represent a very conservative district, and my district loves Michael Steele,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “It’s a good thing. It may help us get over some of this trash that’s been out there for decades.”

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