Friday, April 29, 2005

Kweisi Mfume gets cold shoulder from Dems

Politics: It seems the Maryland Dems are not so pleased with a black man running for the Senate and charges are flying there is a smear campaign going on. It would explain the Washington Post story that came out on Mfume. I'm wondering if this is resentment that he advocated a more moderate position in dealing with the GOP? Democrats hate it when us black folk start thinking for ourselves and leave the "plantation."

ANNAPOLIS -- Six weeks into Kweisi Mfume's campaign for the U.S. Senate, Democrats here and nationally believe the former congressman from Baltimore is being shoved aside or written off by powerful forces within the state party. Many Maryland Democrats -- black and white -- are shying away from Mfume's candidacy and privately criticizing his campaign for not being well-organized. Critics say his troubled childhood as a street hustler in Baltimore, followed by controversial new allegations about his tenure as the president of the national NAACP, will make him a liability in a statewide campaign. On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that a confidential NAACP report detailed allegations that Mfume gave raises and promotions to women with whom he had close personal relationships while he was president of the civil rights organization. Mfume's supporters noted the story broke one day after U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore announced his candidacy for the Senate. They said the timing is indicative of the efforts to sink Mfume's campaign. ....

In an interview Tuesday night, Mfume, 56, talked at length about the need for diversity at the top of the Democratic ticket in 2006. He said African Americans are still angry that the party's 2002 nominee for governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, passed over several qualified black candidates in favor of a white former Republican.

"One would think that there would be some type of effort by the Democratic Party to put together a diversified ticket to reflect the state we live in," Mfume said. He emphasized that he was not talking about himself necessarily, but he said 2006 provides an opportunity for the party to redeem itself.

"There are lessons to be learned from three years ago," Mfume said. "I'm hoping the party does not miss a great opportunity to broaden the Democratic tent and demonstrate evidence of inclusion."

That message has been trumpeted from some powerful voices in the national Democratic Party. Republicans, meanwhile, have used the backlash from 2002 as a wedge in the hopes that African-American voters in Maryland begin trending toward Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the leading GOP Senate hopeful. Steele is the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland.

"The Maryland Democratic Party has never, ever nominated an African American for statewide office," said Kevin Igoe, a GOP consultant and former executive director of the Maryland Republican Party. "Instead of backing Mfume, a very well-qualified African American, the white power structure within the party is lining up to defeat him."

Donna Brazile, manager of Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, said in a well-publicized column in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, that Mfume's candidacy should be embraced by the Maryland Democratic establishment. She warned of a backlash if Mfume's candidacy is being thwarted, and said that Democrats could pay the price at the ballot box with low African-American turnout.

Brazile wrote that Mfume could be as much a Democratic superstar as Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and should be supported "to demonstrate our commitment to inclusion ... before it's too late."

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