(BALTIMORE – March 28, 2016) – When will the Maryland Democratic Party finally do the right thing? For Pete’s sake, there is a black President just 45 minutes south of Baltimore and right next door to Prince George’s County. So, then, it begs the question: Are blacks good enough to lead in Maryland, according to the Maryland Democratic Party?
Actions speak louder than words. I am reminded that it was the Maryland Republican Party that gave blacks its first statewide elected official in the person of Michael S. Steele.
That was 2002 when he and his running mate, Congressman Robert Ehrlich, beat Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend, ending a 36-year State House drought for the GOP in Maryland.
Four years later, Maryland’s own Kweisi Mfume entered the race to fill the retiring Paul Sarbanes’ seat in the US Senate. I remember that race like yesterday. On a couple of occasions, Bmorenews found itself riding beside Mfume down the road towards Prince George’s County, considered the wealthiest black jurisdiction in Maryland.
From my recollection, Prince George’s gave Mfume a lot of love and support. But, did the Maryland Democratic Party support him? No. The Party supported Ben Cardin. While Mfume got 40.52% of the vote, Cardin garnered 43.67. In my estimation, without the Party’s support, Mfume would have won.
In 2012, another African American, state Senator C. Anthony Muse, ran against Cardin. This time, Cardin would win by a much wider margin. While Muse received nearly 16% of the vote, Cardin snatched over 74% in the Primary. And, as is often the case in Maryland, the winner of the Democratic primary historically wins in the General Election; and so, Cardin remains in the seat.
Fastforward to 2016: Donna Edwards, the Congresswoman who beat Congressman Al Wynn for his seat, is now vying for the US Senate seat left vacant by Senator Barbara Mikulski. Clearly, the Maryland Democratic Party supports Congressman Chris Van Hollen.
Yet, according to recent polls, Edwards could very well be on her way to upsetting the Maryland Democratic Party’s apple cart. For an unapologetically black political junkie from this state, I must say that this is a feast to observe.
From the onset, Edwards did not get the support of Prince George’s County Executive Rashurn Baker or Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett of Montgomery County. While both men are black, they have opted to put their support behind Van Hollen. This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with two black elected officials from two major jurisdictions supporting the machine candidate. I only wonder at what point will they support a black candidate over the machine’s pick?
To date, the machine has yet to side with a black leader. They denied Mfume. They denied Muse. And they have denied Edwards.
So, at what point will black people no longer be told to wait? How much loyalty need we display? At what point will a black for a major position in Maryland be a given? After all, African Americans comprise 30% of the state’s population and are a major voting force in every major election. It seems to me that at some point, these numbers should dictate that Maryland has a black Governor and a black Senator without hesitation.
Repeatedly, though, there is this sense of doubt – a certain unwillingness to conform to the times. It should not be this difficult. Hell, a black President is nearby in Washington, D.C. This should be a no-brainer: Having a black Senator; and having a black Governor. Yet, for some reason, Maryland is stuck in the past and seemingly cannot proceed without dragging with it the vestiges of a slave state mentality.
As a point of clarification: Not every black candidate adheres to the mantra of black empowerment. I understand this. Not every black running for office has the testicular fortitude of a Marion Barry or a Maynard Jackson. We get it. The point is that we, the black community, want and need more than black face in office. We need a person who will serve as a voice for black people. This is partly why we so adamantly support Sheila Dixon for Mayor of Baltimore.
In Dixon’s race, she is not the establishment’s pick either. However, many of us believe that the machine has already shown how much it cares about black folks and our desires. Even more, it is this same machine that is ultimately responsible for the first riots in my hometown in 47 years. So, clearly, these folks are out of touch.
Let me also add that when this Senate race first became news, I did not have an opinion one way or the other. Then, something beautiful happened. Donna showed that she was in this for the long haul and that she was prepared to fight. She demonstrated that by one means or another, she intended to win this Senate seat and subsequently walk into history. And then, I also observed how the machine ignored her (Not a good look!).
Today, Edwards is ahead in the polls and, even more, she has earned the respect of tens of thousands of us in Maryland. Not only has she gone against the machine; she aims on beating them.