Race in the DMV races


Post-racial politics? The issue of race in 2014, particularly in the local Democratic primaries, is already a determining factor. The rapidly changing demographics in the DMV—D.C., Maryland and Virginia—are not only redrawing the landscape but also restrucuturing the political playing fields. And all are reading those color-coded 2012 election results like tea leaves.

Take a look at where the DMV candidates set their starting gates – in majority/minority districts which delivered President Barack Obama’s 2012 “urban” victory. But can the DMV candidates depend on the shifting Black and Brown electorate to win?

In Maryland, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is ready to make “a very special announcement” May 8 at Prince George’s Community College. No secret, it’s about his bid to succeed Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is also looking to get a promotion himself [to president]. Then, Brown plans “an announcement tour” of multiethnic Frederick, Silver Spring and Baltimore this weekend.

“If I were [Brown’s] strategists, I would forget about White males and concentrate on White women, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians,” said Radamase Cabrera, Clinton community activist and political insider. “White males are irrelevant,” in winning Maryland Democratic elections given today’s demographics.

Strong stuff. Cabrera explains that most of the voter-rich jurisdictions in Maryland are now “majority-minority” filled with Democratic minorities, even in those in suburban Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties. White voters in those counties are split one-third each between Democrats, Republicans and Independents. The latter two cannot vote in the June 2014 Democratic primary for governor.

“That’s why the labor unions are talking to Brown; they can read the numbers just like I can,” Cabrera said.

Brown will be up against a strong Democratic foe in State Attorney General Doug Gansler who is not without his longstanding party ties. “The battle comes down to a vote between Brown and Gansler, and the word on the street is that Gansler is looking for a Black woman as a running mate for his ticket,” Cabrera said.

“The White candidate needs a Black female and the Black candidate needs a White, conservative,” Cabrera quipped. To that end, Brown is reportedly considering Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as a running mate, Cabrera added.

Still, it is not a given that the Harvard educated Brown can get enough Black voters, who may view him as aloof, to the polls to ensure a win in the primary or general election. Cabrera suggests that Brown’s folks are attempting to show the Prince George’s resident as a homeboy by hosting a low-key kickoff at the Prince George’s Community College. This event harkens back to the days of “an old fashioned Friday night fish fry,” Cabrera said. But he offered a caution: this first campaign rally “shows they misunderstand the Black voter” in Maryland, the longtime political operative contends, who would be more appreciative of “a National Harbor-type venue.”

Across the “Nice Bridge” into Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, businessman and former Democratic National Committee chair, launched his candidacy for governor in majority-minority Norfolk and Richmond touting his urban agenda for a better economy, education and jobs.

In a [Washington Post] poll released earlier this week, McAullife’s Republican contender, the ultraconservative Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccineili has a 46 to 41 percent lead. Though most Virginians, including Blacks, said they were unfamiliar with McAullife, 69 percent of Black voters said they would vote for the Democratic candidate. But it’s unlikely that they will turn out in high numbers without Obama on the ballot.

Traveling up I-395 into downtown D.C., Ward 2 D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, made it official May 6 that he will definitely toss his business bowler in the ring for a second bid at mayor, no doubt because “Chocolate City” is now “Vanilla Swirl,” which increases his chances of winning.

Only Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D), who is Black and represents a majority Black district, has officially announced her mayoral bid. Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who is White and representing Capitol Hill, has established an exploratory committee. Whether Mayor Vincent Gray, who acts more like a candidate every day, will run is still a big question.

Evans, who represents Georgetown, pledged to campaign in all eight wards, saying that for the next mayor “it’s critical they have that kind of support across the city.” But you can bet that his strategists are scouring last month’s special election to see where to invest their campaign dollars to get the most likely voters. It’s no secret that in that last election even with its abysmal turnout, there was a geographic divide that matched the racial divide in the Whiter, wealthier nation’s capital.

So much for post-racial politics. 

Race in the DMV races

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