ANNAPOLIS — Democrats say U.S. Rep. Robert Ehrlich is trying tofulfill his goal of attracting the African-American vote to hisgubernatorial campaign by buying it.
That’s “goofy,” says Ehrlich.
The Maryland Democratic Party this week accused Ehrlich of trying to”buy” Desiree Dodsen, an African-American Democrat who lost the statesenatorial primary in Baltimore Tuesday to Ralph Hughes.
Ehrlich denied anyone from his campaign contacted Dodson, and Ehrlich campaign spokesman Paul Schurick “guaranteed” no one from Ehrlich’s team contacted her, and in fact he’d never heard of her.
But Democratic Party spokesman David Paulson said the tactic is”typical of Republicans.”
“They pull out their checkbook and they think they can buy anything,” Paulson said.
Two weeks before the primary, an Ehrlich campaign worker approachedher, Dodson said, offering to swap endorsements and campaign door-to-doortogether. The worker said she would receive money for her campaign,Dodson said.
“It was tempting,” Dodson said, who lost to Hughes by 7,815 votes. “Iwas honored to be thought of that way by them.”
Dodson rejected the offer, she said, because she talked to many constituents who would not vote for a candidate connected to Ehrlich.
“It’s nothing personal against Bob Ehrlich,” Dodson said. “I havenothing bad to say about him personally. I think he’s a good man.”
Had she taken the offer, Dodson said, she would have had a betterchance at winning because the Ehrlich connection could have boosted hername recognition. Now that she’s lost, she said she’s still not sure shewould take the offer.
The purported Dodson overture aside, Ehrlich is doing all he can towin black votes.
Ehrlich exchanged support with African-American Sen. Clarence MitchellIV, D-Baltimore, who lost the primary to Delegate Verna Jones,D-Baltimore. This year, Democrats for Ehrlich donated $3,391.13 toFriends of Clarence M. Mitchell IV, according to the Maryland State Boardof Elections.
That GOP backing cost Mitchell the race, Paulson said. But otherfactors may have been at work. Mitchell threatened to leave the DemocraticParty earlier this year in a dispute over redistricting. “SenatorMitchell is a friend. He had the guts to come out against the establishment early on,” Ehrlich said. “This establishment likes to punishand they’re very clear about it. If you cross them, you get hit hard.”
Ehrlich also backed the Rev. John Heath, an African-AmericanRepublican candidate for delegate in Baltimore, who was unopposed inTuesday’s primary, and he chose Michael Steele, an African-Americanformer head of the Maryland Republican Party, as his running mate.
“We’re going to continue doing the things we’ve been doing to wintheir vote,” Ehrlich said. “We’re willing to show up to debates andengage in conversation about issues with African-American groups. We’revery comfortable operating outside our comfort zone.”
African-American voters won’t be fooled in November, Paulson said. “His actions in Congress have taken money out of the inner cities andhurt both blacks and whites,” Paulson said. “You can’t cover that up witha handshake and a smile.” – 30 – CNS-9-13-02