- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele yesterday aired a new commercial for his U.S. Senate bid featuring hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and said he plans to barnstorm the state after Tuesday’s primary.

“I feel very excited about what’s going to begin on September 13,” Mr. Steele, a Republican, said during an appearance on the Anacostia River near the D.C.-Maryland line to promote his environmental plan.

The 60-second TV commercial features footage from a recent fundraiser that Mr. Simmons hosted in Baltimore for Mr. Steele.

It shows Mr. Simmons onstage in a T-shirt and blue jeans, saying: “The lieutenant governor is clear on his mission. He said he wants to fight poverty and ignorance … Now I’m here to endorse him.”

The Steele campaign did not say how much it paid for television time for the ad.

Mr. Steele called Mr. Simmons’ appearance in the spot, which began airing in the Washington and Baltimore markets yesterday, “an enormous boost.”

Mr. Steele also said he plans to spend most of the next two months on a tour bus, traveling to events and meeting voters. The bus tour will begin Tuesday night.

“He will aggressively barnstorm the state,” Steele spokesman Doug Heye said. “Voters who meet Michael Steele react positively to Michael Steele. We want to make sure the lieutenant governor talks to as many Marylanders as possible.”

The Steele campaign has held an event each day this week, even though he faces no serious opposition in the primary, to blunt Democrats’ criticism of him.

“The only way they think they can beat me is to, as they said in their own memo, to denigrate and demonize me,” Mr. Steele said, referring to an internal Democratic memo leaked in April that called him “a unique threat” to Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate seat.

The memo advised Democrats to link Mr. Steele “to national Republicans [and turn] Steele into a typical Republican in the eyes of voters, as opposed to an African-American candidate.”

U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a 10-term congressman from Baltimore, leads Kweisi Mfume, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in the race for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat.

Mr. Simmons is a well-known hip-hop personality who, in 2004, helped register about 4 million voters through a political action nonprofit that he helped to found. Most of the new voters were Democrats in the 18-35 demographic.

Mr. Simmons surprised many in the black community last month when he endorsed Mr. Steele and headlined the Baltimore fundraiser.

Mr. Mfume is on the board of directors of Mr. Simmons’ political action group, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

Mr. Simmons said he supports Mr. Steele because of his commitment to help the black community build wealth. Mr. Simmons said, “Some of the things [Mr. Steele] is doing are inspiring, and maybe moving Democrats to pay attention.”

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