News from Maryland
Paul Sarbanes' announcement Saturday that he would not seek a sixth term as the Free State's senior senator has just had its first fall-out effect: former congressman and NAACP head Kweisi Mfume has declared his intent to seek the nomination.
Sarbanes is the second Democratic senator this cycle to announce his retirement. The first, Mark Dayton, bequeaths a seat that appears increasingly unlikely that the Dems will hold: Republicans have all but coalesced around suburban congressman Mark Kennedy, while the Dems still don't have an announced candidate. The state that in 2002 had the most liberal Senate delegation in the country will probably have, in 2007, one of the most conservative.
Maryland, however, seems likely to remain Democratic, with the primary deciding the ultimate winner. Amazingly, this will be the state's first competitive Senate race (either primary or general election) in 20 years, since Barbara Mikulski was first elected in 1986. Mikulski bested Representative Mike Barnes, the House's leading critic of Ronald Reagan's Central American policy, and the state's two-term sitting governor, Harry Hughes.
The most interesting aspect of the developing primary comes in the racial composition of the suggested candidates. In addition to Mfume, the mentioned candidates include three white congressman (Benjamin Cardin, Dutch Ruppersberger, Chris Van Hollen) and three African-Americans (Congressmen Albert Wynn and Elijah Cummings and Prince George’s County States Attorney Glenn Ivey). There is, therefore, a distinct possibility that the race could have two credible African-American candidates, which would be a first for a Democratic Senate primary anywhere in the nation.
There is, in fact, a chance that Maryland and Tennessee, where Democrat Harold Ford is the party's likely nominee, could send African-Americans to the Senate in 2006 (though Ford's chances remain less than 50-50). If so, we may look back at Barack Obama's triumph as even more significant than it appeared at the time. We all know that Obama was just the third black candidate, of either party, to be elected to the Senate since the establishment of popular elections to the Senate. Quite apart from Obama and the other two African-Americans to win Senate elections (Carol Moseley-Braun and Ed Brooke), however, there have been only three other credible black candidates nominated for the Senate. The most famous, of course, was Harvey Gantt, who narrowly lost to Jesse Helms in 1990 and 1996, with the 1990 race perhaps featuring the most raw use of race in modern American political history. Apart fron Gantt, the only other credible black Senate nominees came in 1994, a year where many established Democrats (wisely) opted not to run for the Senate. Congressman Alan Wheat, elected from a majority-white district in Kansas City, unsuccessfully challenged John Ashcroft; and King County Executive Ron Sims lost against Slade Gorton.comments powered by Disqus
David Darlington - 3/17/2005
It should be noted that in Maryland, the leading rumored GOP candidate is also African American -- Lt. Governor Michael Steele