Elections 05: Race in the Race For Power
In neither elections nor governing is politics color blind.
Were recognizing that truth, painfully, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as governments try to rebuff allegations that race lay behind their neglect and delays, while all the world is looking with us at the black face of displacement and suffering in America.
On a positive note, were seeing race at work in Annapolis politics as African Americans prepare for the new election cycle during an anniversary of great significance.
Forty years ago, the murder of voting rights activists in Philadelphia, Miss., and the attack later by state troopers on peaceful marchers in Selma, Ala. led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
That law and its amendments prohibited not only racist policies like the poll tax but also later tricks like gerrymandering, annexations, at-large elections and other barriers to prevent blacks from voting.
Four decades later, African Americans are getting serious traction in electoral politics. We need look no further than our home state to see the momentum.
Witness the success of Michael Steele, rising first to become Marylands first black lieutenant governor and now the all-but-certain GOP candidate for Marylands Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Paul Sarbanes. Another black, former Rep. Kweise Mfume, is a candidate for the Democratic nomination in that Senate race.
Those are the high-profile candidates. Theres action at the local level as well, as we report in this issue. Bay Weekly editor Sandra Martin documents the surge of African American activities leading to Annapolis primary election upcoming on Tuesday, September 20. For years, she writes, black voters have cast decisive votes in city elections. In this years primary, they can choose to put their power behind black candidates in six of the citys eight wards.
Theres much at stake, including the direction of the citys housing policies, not to mention, in November, the possibility of electing a black mayor. African Americans have prepared like never before in recruiting candidates and registering voters. They say theyll also be able to deliver those votes to the polls.
Dont be surprised if there are surprises in Tuesdays elections. From here on out, African Americans will be a fixture in Maryland politics on both Democratic and Republican tickets. Expect to see candidates of color in more state and national races in 2006.
We agree with our friends in the black communities of Anne Arundel and Calvert counties that theres no better way to commemorate an anniversary like the Voting Rights Act than winning an election.