By Kate Alexander and Matthew Cella
Minorities and women are gaining ground in Maryland’s Republican Party leadership, though they have yet to achieve equal representation, according to a Capital News Service analysis.
With five African-American delegates attending the national convention in Philadelphia this week, the proportion of African-Americans on the 31-member delegation stands at 16 percent, while the statewide population is 25 percent.
That’s a big change from 1996, when one African-American delegate attended the national convention for Maryland.
Delegate Michael Steele, R-Prince George’s, said the party is “making a conscious effort to take its message (and) stylize it to communities where we live,” and black Republicans need to spend more time in the community as Republicans.
“We’re so afraid to let people know we’re Republicans because we’re so afraid of what they will think of us or what they will say of us,” said Steele, an African-American who is campaigning to become state party chairman.
Paul Ellington, executive director of Maryland’s Republican Party, pointed out that every African-American who ran for a delegate slot won.
Ellington said while Republicans encourage the participation of African- Americans, Hispanics and Asians, they believe the people of Maryland should be able to elect whomever they choose, a reference to the Democratic Party’s efforts to make its delegation reflect the general population.
Delegate John R. Leopold, R-Anne Arundel, chastised the Democrats’ “quota systems,” established to ensure racial and gender balance.
“The Democrats go way overboard with their strict rules and quotas. They are taking diversity to the extreme, and that is not where we want to be,” he said.
In a statement, Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Wayne L. Rogers said, “Our delegation is a snapshot of Maryland and of the Democratic Party.”
The Democrats used a proportional representation system to apportion its delegates and alternates to the national convention.
Of its 96-member delegation, men make up 51 percent of the delegation, women 49 percent, African-Americans 33 percent and Asians and Hispanics 3 percent each.
Ann Beegle, deputy director of the Maryland Democratic Party, resisted characterizing the requirements as quotas.
“It’s not like we have to go knocking on doors and looking for more females, more males, or anyone of an ethnic background,” Beegle said.
Leopold said the party, both locally and nationally, has been reaching out to minority communities in hope of diversifying.
“We are making inroads, though we do have a good deal of work to do. George W. Bush has been an outspoken proponent and practitioner of diversity,” Leopold said.
“With him as a standard-bearer, you will see even greater results.”
While no other minority groups are represented in this year’s Maryland GOP delegation, last week Alma Preciado was appointed an alternate, the first Hispanic to join a Maryland delegation.
Preciado said she was approached by the party about becoming a delegate and agreed when she was persuaded during discussions with representatives for George W. Bush that the governor is interested in Hispanic issues.
“At least they’re starting to pay attention. I think it’s an outreach. That’s what I see.”
Women members of the delegation did not grow at the same rate as African Americans. Women were outnumbered by men almost two to one despite essentially even numbers in the statewide population. Their numbers now are about the same as the 1996 convention.
Delegate Nancy Dacek, a member of the Montgomery County Council, pointed out that two of the three delegates from her district, as well as two of the three alternates, are women.
“It shows that the Republican Party is getting a broader base and that groups that weren’t represented are getting a voice,” Dacek said. With only one senior citizen and no delegate younger than 35, the delegation poorly represents the youngest and oldest age groups despite their combining for 20 percent of the population. The middle age group, which comprises about 50 percent of the state’s total population, makes up more than two-thirds of the delegation. – 30 – CNS-7-28-00