Got to stick by my party'

`I ...

Exit polls show more than 70% of African-Americans chose Cardin over Steele

Black voters

Maryland Votes 2006 -- A Special Section

November 08, 2006|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN REPORTER

Antoine Thomas said he ignored race and voted on the issues yesterday when he cast his ballot at Deer Park Middle Magnet School in Randallstown.

Thomas, who said he is unaffiliated with a political party, split his ballot by voting for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democrat in the U.S. Senate race. Thomas, who is black, said he pondered voting for Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the Republican Senate candidate. While it would it make him proud to see a black elected to the Senate, Thomas said he couldn't muster a vote for Steele.

"At the end of the day, it's about who could do the best job. And I didn' t think he [Steele] could do a real good job," said Thomas, who works at an auto repair shop.

Seventy-four percent of the black respondents to exit polling yesterday said they voted for Cardin over Steele. Only 25 percent of the 1,540 polled said they had cast their votes for Steele, who campaigned by distancing himself from President Bush, and the GOP, which has failed to make significant inroads among black voters.

Meanwhile, Thomas rejected the gubernatorial bid of Mayor Martin O'Malley, who campaigned with a black lieutenant governor candidate, Anthony G. Brown. But Thomas' support for Ehrlich was inconsistent with many other black voters. About 85 percent of the black respondents in exit polling said they chose the O'Malley-Brown ticket.

In the months leading up to the election, Maryland voters were bombarded with political advertising that portrayed Steele not as a conservative, but as a candidate that would shake up the Washington establishment. Yesterday's exit polling suggests his message did not shake up black voters . To win, Steele needed to draw a substantial show of support from black voters in Central Maryland, the corridor running from the Washington suburbs to the Baltimore area.

Angela Washington, 35, of Largo said she didn't vote for Steele, as she walked from the polling place at the Largo-Kettering public library.

"I think some people are kind of angry at the way the Republican Party is trying to convince us they're the black party with Steele," Washington said. "We've seen the Republican Party use black people to get our votes and disappear."

In Baltimore County, Damani Ellington, a teacher, said as he left the polling place at Hernwood Elementary School in Randallstown that he voted for Cardin and O'Malley.

Ellington said he did not give much consideration to voting for Steele after hearing his stance on Iraq.

"Of course, he's with George Bush, and I didn't like the way the war went. That added to my decision," said Ellington, a Democrat.

Noah Dubose describes himself as a "Nationalist" who is unimpressed by either party. He said he looked at Steele's color but decided it was more imperative to change the face of the Senate. Dubose, who is retired, voted at William H. Pinderhughes Elementary School in West Baltimore.

"I don't like Steele," Dubose said. "And I really don't like Cardin. But I think it's important to take the Senate away from Republicans because of the way it's gone in the past. We haven't done anything progressive since the Republicans have taken control of the House and the Senate."

Eddie Neal, a West Baltimore Democrat, said his father urged him to stay with the party. Neal said he lost faith in the electoral system and had not voted since the 2000 presidential election.

"I thought about Steele, but I'm a Democrat," Neal said. "Even though I'm black and wanted to vote for him, I just got to stick by my party. I was always taught Democrats were for the poor people, and I'm poor. It's no use in me faking that."

In East Baltimore, Dewain Stuckley, who said he works for public works in Baltimore County, said he, too, stuck with Cardin, O'Malley and all the Democrats. Stuckley looked at a piece of campaign literature with Ehrlich/Steele promoted as Democrats, prompting him to say such trickery is why he does not break from his party.

Similar campaign literature turned up in some other predominantly black voting districts in the Baltimore area and Prince George's County.

"That's the tricks they play. The average person that would come in would think they are Democrats and vote Republican," said Stuckley, who voted at Dr. Bernard Harris Sr. Elementary School. "This will confuse people."

Sun reporter Alia Malik contributed to this article.

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