Former Prince George’s County executive Wayne K. Curry, backed by five black members of the Prince George’s County Council, today endorsed Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Mr. Curry, a Democrat who became the first black Prince George’s county executive in 1994, and served two terms, is influential in Prince George’s, the state’s second-largest county, with about 846,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Council members David Harrington, Camille Exum, Samuel H. Dean, Marilynn M. Bland and Tony Knotts joined Mr. Curry in backing Mr. Steele, who is black.
Prince George’s is also 65 percent black, and is expected to play a key role in Maryland’s Nov. 7 U.S. Senate race between Mr. Steele, who is from Prince George’s, and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is white and from Baltimore.
Mr. Curry signaled his dissatisfaction with Maryland’s Democratic Party last spring, when a Democratic poll was leaked to the press, calling Mr. Steele a “unique threat” to the Democrats.
The poll advised Democrats to “knock Steele down” by linking Mr. Steele to President Bush and national Republicans, to turn Mr. Steele “into a typical Republican in the eyes of voters, as opposed to an African-American candidate.”
Mr. Curry was incensed by the poll, and said at the time that Mr. Steele’s candidacy presented an “enormously historic” opportunity for blacks that “may ultimately break this sort of vices grip by Democrats who feel entitled to black votes regardless of how they treat black voters.”
Democrats spurned black candidates for Maryland’s lieutenant governor spot in 2002.
In this year’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, Mr. Cardin defeated Kweisi Mfume, past president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Mr. Mfume said that the “old line party bosses,” generally understood to be House Minority Whip Steny. H. Hoyer and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, made sure he could not raise money or support.
Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Miller, both white Democrats from Southern Maryland, have denied the charge.
Mr. Curry also made a dramatic, last-minute endorsement in this year’s Democratic primary for Prince George’s county executive. One week before the primary, Mr. Curry endorsed challenger Rushern Baker, who drew even in polls with incumbent Jack Johnson, from 10 to 15 points out.
Mr. Johnson still won the primary by a narrow margin.