- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean yesterday said that Maryland’s Democratic ticket should have had a black or other minority at the top, but added that the national party isn’t to blame for the lack of diversity.

“I do think there should be more diversity on this ticket,” Mr. Dean said during a visit to the Maryland Democratic Party’s campaign headquarters in Hyattsville.

However, Mr. Dean said that the national party bears no responsibility for Maryland’s Democratic ticket, which offers four white men for the state’s top offices — the U.S. Senate, governor, attorney general and comptroller.

“We don’t interfere in primaries,” he said of the DNC.

The Washington Times yesterday reported that black business owners and religious leaders have expressed discontent with the Maryland Democratic Party’s lack of black statewide candidates and said it will encourage support for Republicans — especially Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s run for the U.S. Senate.

In addition, the Baltimore Sun reported Thursday that Maryland’s 10 black state senators met last week with U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic nominee for the Senate, and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the Democratic nominee for governor, to complain about the lack of diversity at the top of the statewide ticket.

State Sen. Ulysses Currie, a black Democrat from Prince George’s County, blamed a lack of discipline by the national party for the lack of diversity among the top nominees on Maryland’s Democratic ticket.

“The Republican Party made the decision at the national level that they wanted Michael Steele to run for the U.S. Senate,” said Mr. Currie, who supported Mr. Cardin over Kweisi Mfume, a past president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in last month’s primary.

Mr. Cardin beat Mr. Mfume in the statewide contest, but Mr. Mfume trounced the 10-term congressman in the majority-black districts of Prince George’s County and Baltimore.

In next month’s general election, Mr. Cardin squares off against Mr. Steele, who is the first black to win a statewide office in Maryland.

What’s more, the Republican Party offers two women in other top contests — Anne McCarthy for comptroller and Disabilities Secretary Kristen Cox for lieutenant governor.

Mr. O’Malley’s running mate for lieutenant governor — Delegate Anthony G. Brown of Prince George’s County, who is black — is the only minority at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Mr. Dean, a former Vermont governor whose presidential campaign fell apart in 2004, took issue with charges that Maryland Democrats lack diversity, noting Mr. Brown’s candidacy.

“We don’t have a lack of diversity. We just don’t have as much as I would like,” he said. “But we do have some, and Brown is a fantastic candidate, and he’s got a great future in Maryland politics.

“Yes, we need more diversity. I’m pushing that very hard. I know [state party Chairman] Terry Lierman’s pushing that very hard,” Mr. Dean said. “But on the other hand, we’ve got four weeks left until this election. We need to do what’s right for America, and what’s right for America is to make sure we get rid of this rubber-stamp Congress.”

Mr. Dean toured the basement office, where about 20 Democratic volunteers and staffers were working phone banks and conducting surveys.

He took questions from the volunteers, and a few expressed anxiety about the upcoming election.

One said many people she had called “don’t seem to know a lot about the Democratic Party” and asked if there would be a “concerted effort to get the party message out before the election.”

“That’s really up to the individual candidates to do that, and I think they will,” Mr. Dean said. “It’s hard to do it, frankly, with all the scandal stuff that’s coming out of Washington. It’s hard for anybody to get their message out.”

He pointed to a monthlong voter-turnout effort that the Democratic Party is kicking off today, saying that activists plan to knock on 3 million doors.

Mr. Dean’s strategy to invest money and resources in all 50 states has angered other national Democratic leaders who say the party needs to focus on states with close races.

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