Two county school board candidates were surprised and pleased to win endorsements earlier this month from a black political coalition. But Sunday, they learned that the organization had switched its support to the only black candidate seeking a seat on the five-member board.
After being included among candidates who won the coalition's backing -- a list of of which was advertised Thursday in local papers -- Karen B. Campbell and Jamie M. Kendrick learned in a story in The Sun that the 34-member African American Coalition of Howard County was now supporting retired college professor Delroy Cornick instead.
"I'm just frustrated," said Mr. Kendrick said. "I'm disappointed they didn't have the courtesy to make a phone call."
After getting the newly formed coalition's backing based on his answers to a questionnaire, Mr. Kendrick had placed newspaper ads for Thursday, Sunday and Monday touting the endorsement, along with those of other organizations who are supporting him.
On Wednesday, a day before his advertisement and the coalition's advertisement listing its endorsements were scheduled for publication, Mr. Kendrick said he checked with the coalition to be sure he could include the endorsement along with others he's garnered.
The Rev. Robert A.F. Turner, chairman of the coalition, acknowledged yesterday that the group made a shortsighted decision early and had to switch when members objected.
"I don't think it's going to prevent the candidates from having a fair election," said Mr. Turner, pastor of Saint John Baptist Church in Columbia. "It just clouded for the African-American community who we're endorsing."
Ms. Campbell said she was "very flattered" when the group first endorsed her. Now she wonders whether the reversal has affected the candidates or the image of the coalition's solidity.
"I don't know who it hurts more," she said.
The coalition was formed in late June after prominent black leaders in the county met to establish an agenda of issues affecting 22,000 blacks, as well as other minorities, in the county. In August, the group sent questionnaires focusing on issues including education, economics and crime to 79 candidates. Respondents were judged on their answers and how well they articulated their opinions in writing.
A group of coalition members met Sept. 1 and made their picks for today's primary election. But on Thursday, after this group showed their list of candidates to a wider array of the membership and other county residents, the coalition reconsidered and chose Mr. Cornick.
Coalition officials said Mr. Cornick, a retired Morgan State University professor who taught business more than 20 years, was a better choice than Ms. Campbell and Mr. Kendrick.
Mr. Cornick said the endorsement switch could slightly damage his election chances.
"It sends confusing signals to the public," he said. "The coalition attempted to speak for the whole African-American community, and I have a lot support there. A lot of people got upset with their endorsements."
Mr. Turner said the change in endorsement was based on a revised vote of all of the coalition's members after taking into consideration more than the answers to questionnaires. Among the deciding factors was Mr. Cornick's background in education.
Ms. Campbell is a former school board member. Mr. Kendrick, 19, is a student at the University of Maryland at College Park.
"It's an unfortunate sequence of events, but we decided as a group we had made a mistake and did our best to reverse that mistake," Mr. Turner said. "In the end we picked Delroy Cornick, the person we thought would best represent the African-American community and have a holistic education plan for all the students in Howard County."
Mr. Turner said his coalition had not had time to pull its advertisement from two local papers.
The other two school board candidates are Robert F. Minehart Jr., a staff officer at the National Security Agency, and Stephen Bounds, an Ellicott City lawyer.
The top four candidates will advance to the general election in November and will compete in a nonpartisan race for two board seats.