- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

Maryland’s top Democratic candidates — who are mostly white men — yesterday addressed the party’s lack of diversity in a breakfast with several hundred leaders in Prince George’s County, a center of black business and political influence.

“Yes, I know that there were some people who were disappointed in Prince George’s County with the outcome of the primary,” said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. “I want to make sure they’re not disappointed come next January, when we see who’s in Washington leading this nation.”

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the Democratic nominee for governor, said that state Democrats have a message for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican seeking re-election: “Four years is four years too many. It is time to go.”

Race and minority representation have become key issues in Maryland politics, with many black business and religious leaders expressing consternation that the Democratic nominees for the state’s four top races — the 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.

The Republican ticket features in the Senate race Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the first black to win a statewide election in Maryland, and two women — Anne McCarthy for comptroller and Disabilities Secretary Kristen Cox for lieutenant governor.

Last week, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said “there should be more diversity” on Maryland’s Democratic ticket, but that the national party isn’t to blame.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Maryland’s 10 black state senators met last week with Mr. Cardin and Mr. O’Malley to complain about the lack of diversity at the top of the statewide ticket.

Yesterday, Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a black Democrat from Prince George’s, said the election next month is unlike any in recent history.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands,” said Mr. Wynn, who opposed Mr. Cardin in the primary and endorsed Kweisi Mfume, a past president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Mr. Cardin defeated Mr. Mfume in the Sept. 12 statewide primary, but Mr. Mfume trounced Mr. Cardin in the mostly black districts of Prince George’s County and Baltimore, which is Mr. Cardin’s base.

Mr. Wynn, who narrowly won his primary contest, unequivocally expressed support for Mr. Cardin yesterday.

“We need a friend who we can count on in the United States Senate. … We don’t need [President Bush’s] crony, his ally, his homeboy,” Mr. Wynn said, referring to Mr. Steele.

Mr. Steele has distanced himself from the president, saying that his Republican Party affiliation is a “scarlet letter” in Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. But he also has called Mr. Bush his “homeboy.”

The Democratic breakfast at Camelot of Upper Marlboro was intended to foster unity. It spotlighted white leaders such as House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer; Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, the nominee for attorney general; Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski; and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, who is retiring.

But a leader of a large black church said there was little real unity in the ballroom, noting that many people ate and walked out early.

“Didn’t you see the exodus before they got done?” he said.

Mr. Mfume did not attend the breakfast. He has made one public appearance with Mr. Cardin since the primary and said the Democratic Party “has a problem.”

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