March 12, 2005

THEY RETIRE BECAUSE--WHY STAY? (via Robert Schwartz):

Senator Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, Will Retire in '06 (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, March 12, 2005, NY Times)

Mr. Sarbanes's decision opens the door to a possible run by Kweisi Mfume, a former Democratic congressman from Maryland who recently resigned as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Even before Mr. Sarbanes's announcement, Mr. Mfume had sparked speculation about his candidacy by declining to rule out entering the race. Maryland voted solidly for Democrats in the last two presidential elections as well as in recent Senate races, suggesting that potential Republican challengers may face a tough fight. The Republicans, however, did get Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. elected governor in 2002, making him the state's first Republican governor since Spiro T. Agnew, who resigned in January 1969 after he was elected vice president.

Mr. Sarbanes, 72, who will be leaving after 30 years in the Senate, did not specify the reason for his decision, but colleagues said he had complained privately that serving in the Senate was much less gratifying as a member of the minority, without control of any committees or the legislative agenda. His announcement follows one by Senator Mark Dayton, Democrat of Minnesota, that he would not seek a second term, in part because he faced a tough fight for re-election.

Brian Nick, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called Mr. Sarbanes's departure "a wonderful opportunity," pointing out the success the party had had with Mr. Ehrlich.

Republican Party officials said that Michael S. Steele, Maryland's lieutenant governor, might be a candidate for the seat. He is one of the highest ranking African-American Republicans in a state government and he played a high-profile national role in President Bush's campaign for re-election, including speaking at the Republican National Convention.

Mr. Steele is very popular though he'll have to run introductory ads just to get to full name recognition. Hard to believe any potential rivals have higher.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 12, 2005 8:27 AM

If the Democrats nominated Kweisi Mfume, the GOP could win the seat.

Posted by: Bart at March 12, 2005 11:48 AM

Admit it. Senator Steele is a cool name.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 12, 2005 12:20 PM

MN and MD are both doable for the GOP. MN less so just because I just don't see their electorate allowing themselves to be represented by 2 Republicans with a Republican gov to boot.

An Mfume/Steele race could be a Pyrrhic victory for the Dems because it would get national attention and likely be portrayed as old guard/new guard race, thus establishing the idea that it's OK to be a black Republican within the next generation of politicians. This applies even if the new guy loses after running a classy race. Steele will run a great race regardless so there is only upside for the GOP.

In my opinion, Mfume would not try to paint Steele as a 'traitor to his race' because it would not stick and because he's just not that type of guy.

But I do not think Mfume will get the nomination and could even see him withholding an endorsement of Doug Duncan or a Van Hollen after a bitter primary loss. I think Steele would beat either of these guys but not O'Malley or Mfume.

The Dem's best bet is O'Malley in my opinion. But I live across the river in VA so what do I know about a state that allows itself to be represented for decades by underachievers like Mikulski and Sarbanes and nearly elected Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is dumb as a box of rocks, as governor to replace an embarrassment like Paris Glendenning.

Posted by: JAB at March 12, 2005 12:22 PM

Plus there are going to be three more retirements.

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2005 12:28 PM


What if the Republicans did?

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2005 12:40 PM

Corzine is already out.

OJ: is Mfume (can I buy a vowel) the good cop or the bad cop?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 12, 2005 12:51 PM

See my comments in the other thread about Sarbanes, but Steele has a minuscule chance of winning, especially if O'Malley or Duncan runs, and there's no other Republican with a hope. Unless Ehrlich and Steele pull the double switch, with Ehrlich running for Senate (hey, no term limits!) and Steele for Governor. But I haven't heard a breath of that, and Ehrlich can run against a 150-year-old Mikulski after the next term if he's not running for VP...

So, in short, this has about a 3% chance of being a Republican pickup.

Posted by: jsmith at March 12, 2005 12:57 PM

It would be a betrayal of everything the party allegedly stands for if they were to nominate some clown with at least 5 illegitimate children whose entire political career has been about race-baiting, tax raising,cutting national defense and looting the taxpayer for his particular constituency.

Posted by: Bart at March 12, 2005 1:09 PM

I disagree on Steele vs. Duncan. I think Steele beats Duncan just as Ehrlich beat Kennedy Townsend, except with a higher % of the black vote and potentially an offsetting lower % of the white vote.

Duncan is a county guy from wealthy, lefty Montgomery County think Chevy Chase/Bethesda. Why would a rural or urban voter automatically vote for its county commissioner? Steele already won statewide office in an historical election and, unlike any Republican in the state, actually can make some traction in neighboring PG County where Duncan is not all that popular for the normal parochial reasons. Can't wait to see Duncan campaigning at a black church.

If Duncan is smart he'll run for gov and let O'Malley run for Senate. Neither deserve it as much as Mfume and some voters will rethink their devotion to the dem party if he does not get the nomination.

Posted by: JAB at March 12, 2005 1:16 PM

Since we're playing percentages, I give Steele a 45% chance of a pickup. I am sure jsmith knows more about MD politics, but I did call the 2002 races right early on so I give myself some credit. Plus, I love Steele so I'm biased.

BTW, Duncan strikes me as a good politician and a reasonable guy and O'Malley has lots of upside. If anything, these candidates are superior to the previous generation of MD dems.

Posted by: JAB at March 12, 2005 1:22 PM

Strom's seat is still warm, he'd fit right in.

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2005 1:26 PM

Old Strom never voted against more money for the Pentagon and generally opposed higher taxes. That doesn't mean that he isn't on the short list of most despicable people in American Political History, but it does put him in a better light than old Queasy.

Posted by: Bart at March 12, 2005 1:53 PM

Opposing Pentagon waste and being for balanced budgets won't hurt him with voters.

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2005 1:57 PM

Duncan's not a lefty. He's very business-friendly and a very competent manager (though hard not to be with all the dough Montomery County is rolling in).

In my view, Ehrlich won for two (well, two and a half) reasons--he's very personable, Glendening left the State in an atrocious fiscal condition, and his opponent was one of the most miserable politicians ever to run for a major seat. Steele will only have one of those at best, and his opponent will beat him on that score (if O'Malley or Curry, for example). But Steele would seem likely to out-personable Duncan.

Posted by: jsmith at March 12, 2005 3:16 PM


Now, you're being intellectually dishonest. Mfume has been all about increasing taxes on the wealthy, cutting the military and giving the money to the bureaucracies that feed off the Black underclass. His voting record was as bad if not worse than McDermott's. If you see that as a promising position for a Republican to take, even in Maryland, I would respectfully suggest that you seek medical attention.

Posted by: Bart at March 12, 2005 7:48 PM


If the GOP can get to 25-30% of the black vote just by spreading some walkin' around money they'll do it in a heartbeat and should.

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2005 11:04 PM

That's what faith based initiatives are for. We don't need to bring in the enemy itself in the form of the America-hating racist Socialist Mfume.

Posted by: Bart at March 13, 2005 8:50 AM

Yes, but why not win the seat?

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2005 8:53 AM

Because he'd be worse than Jumping Jim Jeffords when it comes to party loyalty and he'd present problems in other states for attempts at attracting the votes of working class Whites and Hispanics.

Posted by: Bart at March 13, 2005 9:05 AM


You think crooked white and Latino pols won't sign up with the GOP because it puts crooked black pols in office back East?

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2005 9:28 AM

oj seems to have taken up residence this week in that shaky space between outside of the box and out of his mind....

Posted by: curt at March 13, 2005 9:55 AM

Departing NAACP Leader Has 'Man-to-Man' Talk With Bush (Michael A. Fletcher, December 22, 2004, Washington Post)

President Bush and outgoing NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume met at the White House yesterday in what Mfume described as a frank, "man-to-man" discussion aimed at fixing the broken relationship between the president and the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.

Joined by the president's chief political strategist Karl Rove, Bush and Mfume spent much of the nearly 40-minute conversation discussing the strained relationship between Bush and the NAACP. Last summer, Bush pointedly declined an invitation to address the organization's national convention for the fourth consecutive year, calling his relationship with the group "basically nonexistent." The NAACP said Bush was the first president since Warren G. Harding who did not address the civil rights group while in office.

Mfume was invited to the White House last month after announcing his intention to step down after nine years as the NAACP's president and chief executive officer. Speaking to reporters, Mfume was careful to say that the private session -- which he had requested in a letter to Bush -- did not "constitute a meeting" between Bush and the NAACP. [...]

Scott McClellan, Bush's press secretary, called the meeting an extension of the president's policy of working with people willing to work with him. "The president and Mr. Mfume have had a good relationship in the past," McClellan said, "and this meeting is an opportunity to talk about how we can work together in the future on shared priorities.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2005 10:10 AM

NAACP Head Mfume Didn't Retire, He Was Booted Out (Armstrong Williams, Dec 6, 2004, Human Events)

Dont believe the well scripted press conference where former President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Kweisi Mfume, announced his resignation. Mfume did not resign from the nations oldest and most prestigious civil rights organization. He was kicked out, following a long simmering feuded with NAACP Chairman Julian Bond.

The two began feuding after Mfume nominated National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice for his 2003 NAACP Image Award. Furious that Mfume was reaching out to the Bush administration, Bond responded by nominating "Boondocks" cartoonist Aaron McGruder for his Image Award. McGruder had ridiculed Rice in his comic strip and later caller her murderer for her role in the war in Iraq.

The rift grew as Mfume continued to reach out to the Republican Party. Mfume realized that by reflexively voting Democrat in every election, the black voting populace has given away most of their political bartering power. After all, what incentive is there for either party to go out on a limb for blacks, if it is taken for granted that blacks will automatically vote Democrat? In effect, the black voting populace has created conditions that make it very easy for both parties to take them for granted. Mfume rightly reasoned that by reaching out to the Republican Party on issues that they already agree with -- like empowering faith based charities, supporting school vouchers, etc. -- the black voting populace can send the message that theyre no longer willing to blindly support the Democrats. Faced with the prospect of fleeing voters, the Democrats would be forced to make new overtures. This competition, in turn, would instill both parties with a sense of urgency for addressing those issues that black Americans routinely rate as their chief concerns. This competitive pressure would provide the black voting populace with increased political options -- and increased bartering power. Somehow this point was lost on Bond, who dug in his heels with mind numbing intransigence. Over the next year and a half, the rift became unmendable.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2005 10:10 AM

How much was Armstrong paid for that column?

Mfume's record is clear. His votes in Congress. His years as head of the NAACP. Are you telling me he had some kind of 'Road to Damascus' conversion? If so, when? If so, what was the bolt of lightning?

He had a rift with Julian Bond, probably because Mfume served him the wrong wine with his chilled salmon pate', a mortal sin for the professional wanna-be, Bond. Because Bond presented the image that Corporate America wants in Black leadership (unaccented, well-groomed, effete) he brings in the bucks while the less cultivated Mfume does not. The NAACP is no different from any other club, the guy with the gold makes the rules.

Posted by: Bart at March 13, 2005 12:52 PM

One other point. In areas where the issue is the split of a limited number of contracts and jobs, these putative attempts to reach out to Blacks do matter. Set asides for Blacks take jobs away from Hispanics,Asians and Whites. You reward the people who elected you with those gifts and emoluments, you do not use them to troll for voters elsewhere. Otherwise, you alienate your base for dubious rewards. Even the most corrupt and dishonorable Jersey City ward heeler knows that one. If you don't reward loyalty, you don't get loyalty.

Posted by: Bart at March 13, 2005 12:56 PM


When he tried running the NAACP.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2005 4:00 PM