Starting Sept. 3, Maryland voters will be able to cast their votes in the primary election for local and statewide candidates. This is the first time Maryland has allowed early voting and the submission of absentee ballots for convenience, providing more opportunities to vote and more access to voting for eligible voters.

This is not, however, the first time the AFRO has made endorsements.

During each election season, the AFRO reaches out to the candidates in the races of most interest to the African-American community and those that most impact their lives. We start by sending a questionnaire and then, based on the answers and any additional issues or controversy surrounding the various races, bring candidates from select races, that completed the questionnaire, in for an interview with the publisher, Jake Oliver, and members of the editorial department.

Our endorsements are made based on this information.

This exercise is usually daunting for us, and this year was no exception. Without fail, we enjoy meeting the candidates, find them interesting and informative, and leave each meeting liking something about each one. With that in mind, please know that we endorse the candidates we believe will do the job, to the best of their ability and for the good of their constituency.

We then wait to watch what you, the voters, decide on Election Day.

The following are the AFRO’s endorsements for the 2010 Primary election in Maryland, Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

U.S. Senate
Barbara Mikulski

Barbara Mikulski has been serving the state of Maryland in Washington since 1976 when she was first elected to the House of Representatives. After working there for 10 years, she was elected to the Senate in 1986 and has been serving there since.

In 34 years, Maryland has not had a more committed and tireless advocate.

She is at the forefront of issues that impact her constituents from one end of the state to the other, using her influence and connections to improve the quality of life of Marylanders.

She works hard to provide work and economic opportunity in the state and to mitigate the hardship of her constituents during this economic downturn. “My economic purpose is to help those who are middle class stay there, and give those who are not middle class a chance to get there,” she wrote on her AFRO questionnaire. “In these tough economic times, people need someone who gets what they’re going through and knows how to fight for them.”

She’s right. We do need this and she delivers.

The AFRO endorses Barbara Mikulski to be the Democratic candidate so she can return to the Senate and continue to serve us faithfully.

3nd District, House of Representatives
John Sarbanes

Maryland’s Third Congressional District is a meandering stretch of geography that includes parts of Howard County, Arundel County, Baltimore City and Baltimore County. With such a convoluted layout and diversity of incomes, races, environments and backgrounds, the Third District needs a special kind of person to represent those interests in Congress. We believe that person is U.S. Rep. John P. Sarbanes.

Sarbanes – a longtime board member for the Public Justice Center – has shown sensitivity to the needs of the working poor and the unemployed during his time on Capitol Hill. In addition to supporting policies to extend benefits to the unemployed, he has worked to support small businesses as part of the solution to the anemic economic recovery. We also applaud his recognition of the importance of including women- and minority-owned businesses in the opportunities presented by BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure), the U.S. Defense Department’s plan for reshaping its infrastructure and workforce.

In addition to his support of legislation making college more accessible, Sarbanes’ support of health reform and his ideas for advancing that reform are commendable. With a focus on reducing the shortage of minorities within the medical profession as well as primary care physicians, Sarbanes worked with colleagues to provide a variety of incentives and structures designed to close that gap.

If he is re-elected, he plans to implement additional programs to increase the number of available primary care physicians.

Sarbanes’ sincere focus on the needs of his constituency has earned the endorsement of the AFRO for the Third Congressional District.

7th District, House of Representatives
Elijah Cummings

The AFRO endorses Elijah Cummings as the Democratic candidate to the House of Representatives from the 7th District. We do this without hesitation or reservation because since his election to the office in 1996, two important words have always applied to his work – tireless and integrity.

Cummings provides wonderful constituent services and is constantly looking for ways to bring those in his jurisdictions, the state and the country forward when they are in need. In the last 12 months he worked directly with the country’s mortgage companies to bring no less than three mortgage/foreclosure prevention seminars to those in need. He is constantly acting on ways to bring added value to the people of the state.

As a legislator, he is well versed in the issues and uses that information to guide him in the right direction. And he is willing to explain what is happening, so everyone understands.

His work for his district and the state is exemplary and we see no need to make a change.

MARYLAND

Democrat, Governor, State of Maryland
Martin O’Malley

Gov. Martin O’Malley has grown as a public servant during his four years in office, developing into a strong, effective leader for the state.

O’Malley took office and immediately addressed the dire budget issues of the state, just ahead of the extreme downturn of the economy. His fast action to correct the state’s structural deficit has kept Maryland from falling as far other states and has positioned us near the front of the recovery.

Under his administration, college tuition at state universities was frozen, health care was expanded to cover over 200,000 additional Marylanders, and the investment in public education has increased. He also worked tirelessly to implement strategies and provide assistance for families facing foreclosure, and worked to change Maryland law to provide the help families need to save their homes.

While we still call on O’Malley to reinstate the Supreme Court mandated protections for HBCUs against “Duplication,” which have eroded over the last four years, his effectiveness in a wide variety of other areas make him the ca