- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

BALTIMORE — Former President Bill Clinton yesterday came to Maryland to boost a state Democratic Party struggling to connect with black voters.

“This is not a usual election,” Mr. Clinton told an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred at Frederick Douglass Isaac Myers Maritime Park.

He urged people to recruit as many voters for the Democrats as possible, something he acknowledged “you don’t usually have to do in Maryland.”

Mr. Clinton spoke at a rally for Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, who is running for governor, and for Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Basking in the crowd’s cheers as he stood on an outdoor stage near the Inner Harbor, Mr. Clinton described Mr. Cardin as an “old-fashioned politician.”

“He actually thinks you’re going to give him a job if you elect him,” Mr. Clinton said, chiding Republicans for being ideological and divisive.

After the rally, Mr. Clinton attended a fundraiser in Potomac for Mr. O’Malley.

O’Malley officials said they planned to raise about $500,000 from the event.

Mr. Clinton was the latest in a string of national Democrats to stump for Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Cardin. Mr. Clinton’s wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, came last month, as did Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

The appearances by Mr. Obama, the fifth black senator in U.S. history, and Mr. Clinton have been aimed at bolstering Democrats’ standing among black voters, traditionally the party’s most loyal voting bloc.

Race and minority representation have played large roles during this campaign season, in which Mr. Cardin defeated a black candidate, Kweisi Mfume, in the primary and now faces in the general election Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the first black to win a statewide election.

The Democratic nominees for the state’s four top races — Senate, governor, attorney general and comptroller — are all white men. Mr. O’Malley’s running mate, Delegate Anthony G. Brown of Prince George’s County, is black.

Maryland’s 10 black state senators last month met with Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Cardin to express concern about the lack of diversity at the top of the Democratic ticket, the Baltimore Sun reported.

In addition, black business and religious leaders have said there is grass-roots discontent among black Democrats over the lack of minority representation at the top of the party’s ticket.

And during a visit to Maryland this month, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said that “there should be more diversity on this ticket” but added that the national party is not at fault.

Democrats have called Mr. Steele a “unique threat” to their hold on black voters.

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