Cardin vs. Steele is party vs. individual

HYATTSVILLE, Md. – As the final hours of their Senate campaigns ticked away, Rep. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinAmerica is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction Financial aid fraud is wrong — but overcorrection could hurt more students Democrats denounce Trump's attack on Cummings: 'These are not the words of a patriot' MORE (D-Md.) and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) stressed two very different messages to two different ethnic groups.

The Cardin campaign touted party unity, while the Steele campaign stressed the individual candidate rather than his party.

Cardin is a white Democrat running in a deep-blue state; Steele is black and hopes for a considerable portion of Maryland’s substantial black vote.

In a parking lot in Prince George’s County, local officials made speeches supporting Cardin in Spanish and English to a crowd made up largely of Hispanic, Asian and black voters, and explained how they could work together for victory at polls.

Victor Ramirez, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing Prince George’s County, said Hispanic votes could be decisive if the race is as close as many observers expect it to be.

“[Hispanics] have a solid five or six [percent of] votes in this area and I think that’s going to make all the difference,” he said. “You start adding the Asian community and Hispanic community and the different ethnic communities [and] you are starting to talk about 15 [percent] … and that’s something no one has really focused on except Ben Cardin. …  I think that might be his advantage in the end.”

Cardin supporters disputed Steele’s claim that their candidate has neglected blacks. Prince George’s County has one of the highest populations of blacks in the state and Cardin received harsh criticism when he failed to accept an NAACP debate invitation last month.

In a radio interview last weekend, Steele said Cardin “has a record of neglect in certain communities.” The Republican made the comments after discussing funding of black colleges.  

Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.), who spoke at the Cardin rally despite having backed his black primary opponent, Kweisi Mfume, said Cardin was not to blame for the lack of much racial diversity among Senate Democrats. He described it as an internal problem that Democrats needed to tackle.

“I’ve known Ben Cardin for 24 years,” said Wynn, rejecting the idea that the candidate is out of touch with black voters, and adding, “With any family you have some disagreements; this is an internal family disagreement. Certainly it is not an issue which can be laid at the feet of Ben Cardin.”

Wynn said Hispanic voters were particularly energized this election cycle and likened their enthusiasm to that of the Civil Rights movement.

Today, Wynn, like his colleague and fellow Cardin supporter Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), will be at the polls. Cummings has also been lending a hand to Cardin, despite his initial endorsement of former NAACP president Mfume.

“[Rep. Cummings] has been working very hard for Ben Cardin,” said Cummings spokesman Michael Christianson, explaining that Cardin understood the initial endorsement of Mfume wasn’t intended as a slight. “All of these guys are friends.”

Christian said that although some community leaders have endorsed Steele, the Democrats are united in Maryland, as seen at a rally last week attended by Cummings for Cardin.

In an effort to maximize his final push, Steele campaigned through the night Sunday across the state, stopping at a bowling alley after midnight and a Waffle House crowded with supporters at 2 a.m. yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon in Landover, several black pastors stood against a bright-blue backdrop bearing the words “Steele Democrats,” and told a largely black crowd that they were endorsing Steele.

Bishop Harry Jackson, the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church, explained that it was Steele’s values, not his skin color, that led to their support.

“We stand here in support of Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele because he is a man of character who understands the needs and concerns of our communities and because he holds the values we, as Christians, hold dear.”