Black GOP Groups Woo Mfume, Blast Democrats to Back Steele

Black Republicans are urging voters to support Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, left, in the U.S. Senate race against U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), center. The GOP's overtures include trying to persuade former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, right, a Democrat, to endorse Steele.
Black Republicans are urging voters to support Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, left, in the U.S. Senate race against U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), center. The GOP's overtures include trying to persuade former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, right, a Democrat, to endorse Steele. (Linda Davidson - Linda Davidson)

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By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 21, 2006

Black Republican groups emerged from the political margins yesterday, launching a campaign to persuade African American voters to support Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's bid for the U.S. Senate.

Their efforts surfaced in a letter urging former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, who finished second in the Democratic primary, to cross party lines and back Steele against Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin, the 10-term congressman from Baltimore.

The push was evident in a Baltimore radio advertisement targeting African American listeners that was sponsored by the Washington-based National Black Republican Association. The ad identifies Martin Luther King Jr. as a Republican and pins the founding of the Ku Klux Klan on Democrats.

One woman says: "Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan."

"The Klan?" her friend replies. "White hoods and sheets?"

First woman: "Democrats fought all civil rights legislation from the 1860s to the 1960s. Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks."

Second woman: "Seriously?"

The ad says that "Democrats want to keep us poor while voting ONLY Democrat" and, "Democrats have bamboozled blacks."

Steele said he had not heard the 60-second spot but said he generally does not oppose Republican efforts to assert their "real place in history."

But the ad brought immediate condemnation from Democrats, who called it misleading and ill-intentioned.

"That's despicable. Downright despicable," said Isiah "Ike" Leggett (D), a former state Democratic chairman who is his party's nominee for Montgomery County executive.

"To run that kind of ad, to assume we are so stupid to fall for that kind of baloney, to use Dr. King's name in a cheap political ad like that, in my opinion, this will not be something African Americans will fall for," said Leggett, who is black.


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