Candidates Hit the Pews In Maryland Homestretch

Republican Senate candidate Michael S. Steele attends services at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills with family members, including his mother, Mabel Turner, right. Steele stopped by another church in Prince George's County and one in Silver Spring.
Republican Senate candidate Michael S. Steele attends services at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills with family members, including his mother, Mabel Turner, right. Steele stopped by another church in Prince George's County and one in Silver Spring. (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

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By Ovetta Wiggins and Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 6, 2006

Democratic Senate candidate Benjamin L. Cardin thanked the "Lord for waking me up," for his wife of 41 years and for the pastor of the Church of the Living God allowing him to worship with his congregation.

Then, when he mentioned his party affiliation, an ovation interrupted his sentence. A couple in the crowd sprang to their feet, and Cardin nearly fell off his. A smile swept across his face.

"I like this place, pastor," Cardin said, turning to the minister.

With black voter turnout crucial in Maryland's U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, visits to churches in Prince George's County and Baltimore over the past several weeks have become essential in courting African American voters.

"You can't win Prince George's County without the faith-based folks," said the Rev. Paul A. Wells, pastor of New Revival Kingdom Church in Capitol Heights.

But the churches, typically a stronghold for Democratic candidates, are welcoming Republicans, as well.

GOP Senate candidate Michael S. Steele raced to services yesterday at three black churches in Prince George's and one in Silver Spring. "We have a saying in the community: 'Give it to the Lord,' " Steele said, standing outside Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills.

Inside, he was greeted with warm applause and praise from the Rev. Eric Redmond, who mentioned Steele's support for charter schools and opposition to capital punishment. "I can only imagine the things he could do in a national office," Redmond said.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) stopped by Ark of Safety Christian Church in Upper Marlboro yesterday, where Bishop C. Anthony Muse called him his friend and welcomed him to the pulpit to say a few words. Muse won the Democratic primary for a state Senate seat in District 26.

"People often get into this 'Who is Republican or Democrat?' " Muse told the congregation. "When you are in the house of the Lord, there is no Democrat or Republican, no black or white."

Pastors exhorted their congregations to cast ballots tomorrow but were careful not to declare support for individual candidates, lest they run afoul of rules for nonprofit organizations.

"I think I'd get in major trouble if I made an endorsement," Bishop Adam J. Richardson Jr. told the several hundred worshipers at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington yesterday. "But I think I can say, 'I wish you well.' "


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