Tuesday, September 5, 2006

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer yesterday railed against fellow Maryland Democrats who said the party risks alienation of black voters if they nominate an “all-white” ticket in the primary Tuesday.

“It is not an all-white ticket,” Mr. Hoyer said. “I’m for the most qualified guy for attorney general and for lieutenant governor and for the United States Senate — all three of those, irrespective of color. Two of them happen to be African-American.”

Mr. Hoyer was at a District Heights event to support fellow Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin’s run for the U.S. Senate.

The black vote has become a key issue in the contest.

The front-runners in the Democratic primary are Mr. Cardin, who is white, and Kweisi Mfume, a former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who is black. The winner likely will face Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in the general election in November. The Republican candidate is the first black to win a statewide office in Maryland.

Also at the event yesterday for Mr. Cardin was another white Democrat, state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. of Prince George’s County.

Mr. Mfume has accused “old-line party bosses” of slowing his fundraising and trying to coordinate “a coronation” for Mr. Cardin.

State Sen. Ulysses Currie of Prince George’s County, who is black, and more than a dozen other state Democratic leaders turned out yesterday for the Cardin campaign event at an International House of Pancakes.

Blacks represent the Democratic Party’s most loyal voting bloc, but many black leaders have said the treatment of Mr. Mfume has embittered blacks and opened the door for Mr. Steele.

Mr. Hoyer yesterday noted his support for Delegate Anthony G. Brown, a black Democrat from Prince George’s County who is campaigning for lieutenant governor. Martin O’Malley, Baltimore’s white mayor who is running as the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, selected Mr. Brown as his running mate in December.

Mr. Hoyer also pointed out his support of Stuart O. Simms, a black Baltimore lawyer who is running for attorney general.

“I am supporting very strongly Stuart Simms … because I believe he’s the most qualified candidate,” Mr. Hoyer said after the Cardin campaign event.

Mr. Simms, a former state corrections chief and former prosecutor, entered the attorney general contest after Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a white Democrat, dropped out of the governor’s race in June. Mr. Simms was Mr. Duncan’s running mate.

He trails Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, who is white, in the race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

Some black Democrats have said that if Mr. Gansler defeats Mr. Simms and Mr. Cardin defeats Mr. Mfume, the party could aggravate its relationship with black voters.

Mr. Hoyer said he was “outraged” by that line of thinking, which he said does a disservice to Mr. Brown.

“Some African-American leaders think Anthony Brown’s off the table. That is so unfair to Anthony Brown,” Mr. Hoyer said.

Mr. Currie hosted the campaign event for Mr. Cardin. The congressman’s campaign said it was the first time Mr. Currie had endorsed Mr. Cardin.

Although Mr. Currie said he decided to support Mr. Cardin months ago, he told the Gazette newspaper as recently as July that momentum in the Senate race was “shifting towards Mfume.”

A poll released last week showed Mr. Cardin leading Mr. Mfume, 43 percent to 30 percent.

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