Hogan, Brown Differ In Message To Black Voters

Original Source | By: Erin Cox, The Baltimore Sun

In deep-blue Maryland, it's the white Republican running for governor who has a direct message for black voters.

GOP nominee Larry Hogan has canvassed along inner-city streets and spoken to students at a historically black college in Bowie. He says his party has too often overlooked African-American voters — and argues his job-creating economic policies are just what's needed to address the community's high jobless rate.

"Unemployment has doubled under this administration and we've lost 100,000 jobs," Hogan told a mostly black audience at Bowie State last month. "But if you're young, or you're black, it's even worse. And if you're a young, black male, the unemployment rate is twice as high. There are serious issues out there."

Democrat Anthony G. Brown — whose election would give Maryland its first black governor — often campaigns before African-American groups, but studiously avoids talking about minority voters. He prefers a broad message of inclusion, saying his policies are designed to make life better for everyone.

"Maryland needs a governor who is going to be fighting for families regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, geography and other sorts of demographics," Brown said when asked about his message for black voters. "We need someone who is going to fight for all Marylanders."

African-American voters make up about a quarter of the electorate in Maryland, enough to swing a contest. They tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. But experts say the party's candidates should not assume blacks will show up at the polls, and Republicans are smart to try to cut into that base.

Even though Brown could be Maryland's first African-American governor, by not bringing up the point he is using a strategy that other barrier-breaking candidates have employed, including President Barack Obama.

"President Obama illustrates this as well," said pollster Steve Raabe of Annapolis-based OpinionWorks. "It's easier for a ... white candidate to talk about race than an African-American candidate. When an African-American candidate talks about it, some white voters may not be receptive."

Most polling shows that nine times out of 10, African-Americans in Maryland vote for a Democrat, said Raabe, who has conducted surveys for The Baltimore Sun. But in a non-presidential year, black voters may turn out less than in some recent elections.

"If Brown's not going into the community and discussing the historic nature of his candidacy, perhaps the turnout won't be as high," Raabe said.

Brown's candidacy is historic on several fronts. Not only would he be the first African-American elected to the governor's mansion in a state that 152 years ago voted to support slavery, he would be the second ever elected below the Mason-Dixon Line and just the third in U.S. history.

And if elected, he would be the only black governor in the nation. No other African-Americans are running for governor in November, and Democrat Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, the only current black governor, will leave office at the end of the year.

But Brown doesn't raise that potential accomplishment, and he avoids spelling out what he would specifically offer black voters. Hogan, meanwhile, has seized a few opportunities in recent weeks to make a direct pitch to the black community.

Hogan urged African-Americans at Bowie State last month to consider their vote carefully. "It's pretty simple: If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always got," he said.

"Look, I'll be the first to admit that many people in my party are unwilling to reach out to the black community about our ideas, about the promise of empowerment, economic freedom and opportunity. And that bothers me," Hogan told a chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

"But too many people on the other side feel that they can ignore you," Hogan said. "And just take your vote for granted, year after year after year, and that bothers me, too. It should bother you. Why should you be able to be stereotyped? Why should one candidate or one party be able to write you off, and the other side take you for granted?"

Hogan's campaign says it has a sophisticated outreach effort for black communities, though officials could point to only two campaign events aimed specifically at reaching African-Americans — a picnic the campaign threw followed by canvassing along North Avenue in West Baltimore, and the speech to the all-black fraternity at Bowie State.

Hogan campaign spokesman Adam Dubitsky said the candidate delivers the same message about a failed economic climate to all his audiences, but when facing an African-American group, "he does bring up the fact that blacks have fared far worse than whites over the past eight years."

The language is strikingly different from how Brown addresses black audiences, and how Brown discusses what he would do for the African-American community.

Asked in an interview what he offers black voters, Brown spoke for five minutes before answering the question directly.

Back to news >

Stay Connected

Join the Campaign!

Sign up below and get our newsletters right to your inbox!