At Steele Rally, All Is Not Quite What It Appears

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele collected an endorsement in the U.S. Senate race from a man named Mfume, and supporters received
Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele collected an endorsement in the U.S. Senate race from a man named Mfume, and supporters received "Steele Democrat" signs, but the campaign said none of it was intended to confuse voters. (By Matt Houston -- Associated Press)
By Matthew Mosk and John Wagner
Sunday, September 24, 2006

U.S. Senate candidate Michael S. Steele got an endorsement last week from a guy named Mfume . It came at a rally of Democrats for Steele in Baltimore, where Steele supporters waved signs and grabbed bumper stickers that said "Steele Democrat."

No Democrats who are elected officials in Maryland showed up, and afterward they said the entire event was meant to confuse voters.

The Mfume endorsement? It came not from the former Democratic candidate for the seat Kweisi Mfume but from his son Michael . And those signs? Well, Steele is no Democrat.

He's the Republican candidate and has served as chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, a member of the Republican National Committee and a booster for President Bush . He even spoke at the Republican National Convention in 2004. In prime time.

So what gives?

Steele campaign spokesman Doug Heye said there was no intent to confuse anyone, merely to show that the lieutenant governor has broad support in Maryland (a state where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans on the voter rolls).

The signs were "for people who are Steele Democrats, so they can put that out there in their store window or in their front yard," Heye said.

The Steele Democrat signs should be read as if they said "Reagan Democrat," Steele supporters explained.

But that explanation didn't satisfy Democrats, including Steele's opponent, U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin .

"We expect Michael Steele to pretend to be a Democrat, but let's get real," said Oren Shur , Cardin's spokesman. "Marylanders won't be fooled by flashy ads and misleading campaign signs."

State Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman chimed in with his own statement: "Steele's new logo is the biggest election fraud perpetrated on the voters of Maryland in this campaign to date -- and proves that Steele thinks his only chance is political identity theft."

Maryland Republican Party Chairman John Kane seized on the accusation of "identity theft," citing a case in which a Democratic researcher misrepresented herself as Steele on a Web site last year to gain access to his credit report.

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