Volume 13, Issue25 ~ June 23 -29 , 2005

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Michael Steele’s Explorations

Want to know something about Lt. Gov. Michael Steele’s fledgling candidacy for the U.S. Senate?

Call Washington.

You might start with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

That’s what Steele said he’d been doing before his conference call with reporters last week to announce ye olde exploratory committee.

Then again, you might want to just ring up Karl Rove, given that Steele spoke with the GOP’s Grand Puppeteer about running for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Paul Sarbanes, The Sun reported a while back.

This is not to criticize Steele; we admire his capacity to organize at this early juncture. Who among us wouldn’t wish for friends in high places?

Rather, it’s a signal that the Republican Party will once again be tactically smart, loaded with cash and unified — all categories in which Maryland Democrats have recently been challenged.

Steele’s preparation presages an epochal political year for Maryland, a year that will have an open Senate seat in addition to what is shaping up to be a hotly contested challenge of Gov. Robert Ehrlich, the man Steele may be leaving behind. Though that’s not how he described leaving the ticket in that conference call with reporters.

“The governor is my homeboy,” Steele said, “and I’m always going to be there and take care of him regardless of what I’m doing. [If I become a] candidate for U.S. senate, then it would be Ehrlich and Steele, a partnership that doesn’t die but grows stronger.”

A Steele candidacy is a certainty from every indication, and it will be telling whom Ehrlich chooses as his running mate in a system where the governor and lieutenant governor run as a team. Will the governor select another African American, which bolstered the GOP ticket in Maryland in 2002?

Steele is an engaging politician with natural talent. But part of his so-called exploratory effort might be developing a clear understanding that running for Senate is quite different than being a lieutenant governor and running mate. Quick: name something significant a lieutenant governor does.

This time, people and their emissaries in the news media will bore in heavily on Steele’s character and his past.

Who is this former seminarian who calls the governor “homeboy” and who told Bay Weekly last year that the only book that influenced him was the Bible? How does he explain being out of step with most Maryland voters by opposing abortion rights and supporting the death penalty?

Why is he promoting the writing of right-wing nut Michael Zak, who recently accused Democrats of attempting to perpetuate “mastery over blacks” and argued that it was to the Democrats’ advantage when “children grow up poor and uneducated.”

In this long campaign, we’ll have time to really get to know Michael Steele.

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