As the annual Maryland Democratic Party luncheon before the legislative session broke up Tuesday, state Sen. Anthony Muse took the podium to loudly protest the endorsement of incumbent U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin by Gov. Martin O’Malley and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip.
“We don’t use this kind of venue to endorse one Democrat over another,” bellowed Muse, who had just filed that morning to run against Cardin in the primary. Much of the crowd had left as the speeches had droned on, and most of those still present were not paying much attention to Muse’s protest.
“This violates our own rules of the Democratic Party,” Muse said to reporters. “It is the party’s position that they wait till after the primary.”
This is “wrong and disingenuous,” Muse said. “All we ask is fairness in the process.”
Muse said this treatment was typical of the way party bosses had treated other African-Americans who had challenged the white establishment, including President Barack Obama and Kweisi Mfume, who ran against Cardin in 2006. Muse has been a critic of the redistricting process, which he says has not given enough representation to black constituents.
David Sloan, executive director of the state party, who is also black, tried to mollify Muse as reporters looked on. He said the lunch had followed the usual format with speeches by Democratic members of Congress and the governor, and the endorsements were personal statements by O’Malley and Hoyer.
“They were speaking for themselves,” Sloan said.
Muse wasn’t buying it. “I have raised money for this party,” he said, calling the praise for Cardin “endorsement intimidation.”
Party Chair Yvette Lewis, who is also African-American, did not hear Muse’s remarks, but agreed with Sloan.
“During the primary, the party does not take a stand,” Lewis said, calling the endorsements of Cardin “a personal thing.”
“We’re neutral ‘till the primary victor emerges,” she said.
Hoyer, who gave one of the longest speeches at the luncheon, has served more than 40 years in public office with Cardin, a former congressman and speaker of the House of Delegates. He called Cardin was one of his closest friends and one of the best members of the U.S. Senate.
Interviewed briefly after the event, Hoyer seemed puzzled by Muse’s protest.
“He shouldn’t expect other than that,” Hoyer said. Cardin is the incumbent Democrat, Hoyer said, and had already been endorsed by President Obama.
The party should get behind Cardin, and focus on programs that create jobs.