Campaign notebook

August 08, 2006

A campaign notebook item in Tuesday's editions of The Sun reported that campaign officials working for Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele were not interested in returning a questionnaire to the paper's editorial board. It was Steele, not his campaign officials, who stated that he would not return the questionnaire but would post the results on the campaign Web site. The sentiment was contained in an e-mail from Steele to campaign supporters.

Democrats bash Steele over quote about Mfume

The Maryland Democratic Party seized yesterday on recent remarks that Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the likely Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, offered about Democratic Senate hopeful Kweisi Mfume in U.S. News & World Report.

The magazine article - titled "The Race About Race" - includes a comment from Steele about Mfume in which the lieutenant governor appears to imply that Mfume cannot represent the white community as ably as Steele. Both men are African-Americans.

"Voters have to ask who's going to better serve them," Steele tells reporter Dan Gilgoff. "[Someone] who represents all the people, or just one particular race?"

An Mfume representative declined to comment.

The state Democratic Party, however, issued a news release titled "Steele Telegraphs Race Baiting Strategy Against Mfume." Party Chairman Terry Lierman noted that Mfume served Maryland in Congress for 10 years, representing a racially diverse district.

"The voters of that district who were black, white, Asian and Latino responded by electing him by margins as high as 84 percent to represent them for five consecutive terms," Lierman said. "It's clear that Michael Steele will continue to use race baiting as a way to divide the voters of Maryland. Furthermore, these latest comments take Michael Steele's bait and switch, hypocritical style to a new despicable low."

Steele campaign spokesman Doug Heye said the campaign was not in the business of responding to Lierman and referred calls to the state Republican Party.

Party spokeswoman Audra Miller said "the near daily racial attacks by the Maryland Democratic Party" were "insulting to the African-American community."

The Democrats, Miller said, "should be working on getting more African-American students graduating in Baltimore City, stopping illegal arrests, assisting with job opportunities and creating economic opportunities for the African-American community."

Meanwhile, Steele campaign officials were frank yesterday about their disinterest in responding to a candidate questionnaire from the Sun's editorial board.

Rather than filling out the questionnaire and returning it by the board's July 24 deadline, campaign officials said yesterday they would not give answers to The Sun, and instead posted the document on Steele's campaign Web site. Answers and all.

In a letter to supporters, Steele says he is submitting his thoughts directly to voters to view "unfiltered and without bias."

Steele also references a 2002 Sun editorial that said he brought little to the Republican gubernatorial ticket but the "color of his skin." He weighs in as well on the paper's decision to change publishers.

"I am hopeful that the hiring of a new publisher may help shift The Sun toward listening to the views of all Marylanders," he writes. "I also encourage the new publisher to increase diversity among the paper's editors and management staff because they are at the heart of what perpetuates these paternalistic and stereotypical attitudes toward certain politicians and leaders from a certain part of the community."

Sun editorial page editor Dianne Donovan called Steele's decision "unfortunate."

"We sent Mr. Steele a questionnaire as we have done for all the candidates," she said. "It's his decision whether to answer the questions or not."

Donovan said Steele's decision not to return the form would not impact the board's endorsement process.

"What we base our endorsements on are policy issues and stands, and, with an incumbent, experience and a record of achievement," she said.

Jennifer Skalka and Matthew Hay Brown

Cardin opens TV campaign with spot on vote against war

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin launches his first television ad today - a 30-second spot that emphasizes his Washington experience and vote against the Iraq war.

The Cardin ad, which will air on four Baltimore stations, shows the congressman talking to people of various ages and ethnicities, while a male narrator lauds his work for affordable health care and better schools. The narrator calls Cardin "principled" and says he "stood up to the president and voted against the war in Iraq from the start."

"In times like these we need a senator who can get results," he says. "That's Ben Cardin."

With five weeks until the Senate primary, Cardin is the second Democratic candidate to go on the air. Montgomery County businessman Josh Rales, a political novice who is polling near the bottom of a crowded field of Democrats but has vowed to sink upward of $5 million of his own money into his campaign, has launched several ads in the Baltimore and Washington markets.

The Democratic race has been a two-man contest so far, with Cardin and former congressman and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume vying for the lead in recent polls. But Mfume, who has trailed in fundraising, has yet to air a television ad.

Cardin, 62, is a 10-term congressman and former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.

Jennifer Skalka

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