A group of black independent Democrats campaigning for a range of Prince George's County elected offices announced the formation yesterday of a new Democratic coalition led by 5th Congressional District candidate Abdul Alim Muhammad.
Muhammad, who is challenging Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D) in next Tuesday's primary, said a group of candidates who had previously pledged only informal support for each other's campaigns decided to form an alliance during the weekend to offer voters an alternative to the top-to-bottom slate of incumbent candidates, headed by Hoyer and County Executive Parris N. Glendening.
Members of the Democratic Coalition for Progress say they will stress issues involving police brutality, development, education and poverty in their shared campaigns. The formation of the coalition punctuates a campaign season characterized by several races in which well-entrenched incumbents running on the county's top-to-bottom slate are campaigning harder than usual to fend off challenges from independent Democrats.
"This is the first time I have seen so many independent Democrats strike out on their own and form alliances with other people," said Del. Gloria Gary Lawlah, a state Senate candidate who is running as an independent Democrat against incumbent Sen. Frank J. Komenda (D-Prince George's). Lawlah said yesterday that she had not determined if she was going to join the coalition.
In addition to Muhammad, the Nation of Islam's national spokesman, members of the new coalition include: county executive candidate Floyd E. Wilson Jr., county sheriff candidate Frederick Jones, 8th District County Council candidate Isaac Gourdine and 6th District County Council candidate Linwood Jones.
Also listed among the coalition's members are C. Hope Brown, candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in the 22nd District, and Horace Hillsman, who is running for state delegate in the 25th District.
"We are demonstrating a unity that has not been seen before in Prince George's County and there is strength in that unity," said Wilson, the first black elected to the County Council in 1974, who is challenging Glendening in the Democratic primary.
"What you have is a group of people coming together and saying it is time for a new day in Prince George's County."
The candidates, most of whom are running bare-bones campaigns against well-funded incumbents, said that their alliance does not represent a slate in the traditional sense because they do not plan to distribute sample ballots and the group will continue to accept additional candidates as the Democratic primary nears.
The group said it does intend to pool resources and coordinate staffing and volunteer efforts, as is the practice in traditional slate arrangements that have become a fixture in Prince George's County politics.