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Maryland: Cardin Leads Steele in New Independent Poll

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R), who is poised to officially enter the Senate race today, trails Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D) in a hypothetical 2006 matchup, an independent poll to be released today reveals.

But Steele is in a statistical dead heat with another leading Democratic contender, former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, and he leads all other Democratic candidates by significant margins, the poll, conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing, shows.

Still, Steele does not get more than 45 percent against any of the Democrats in the race, including those who have no statewide name recognition at all or are considered fringe candidates.

But the Cardin-Steele head-to-head reveals some peril for Democrats as well. Although the 10-term Congressman led Steele 47 percent to 38 percent, Steele took 18 percent of the black vote, which is almost double what Republican statewide candidates traditionally get in Maryland. Cardin took 68 percent of the black vote.

The numbers were essentially the same when Steele was pitted against another black leader, Mfume, the former president of the NAACP. Steele then took 17 percent of the black vote, compared to Mfume’s 70 percent. Overall, Steele led Mfume 42 percent to 40 percent, which was within the poll’s 3.5 percent margin of error.

Among white voters, Steele led Cardin 44 percent to 41 percent, and he led Mfume 49 percent to 31 percent.

The poll of 815 registered voters was conducted Oct. 17-21.

In other head-to-head matchups where all voters were queried, Steele led forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren (D), the sister of Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren, 44 percent to 36 percent. He led college professor and political commentator Allan Lichtman (D) 43 percent to 35 percent, real estate developer Joshua Rales (D) 44 percent to 33 percent, and frequent candidate Robert Kaufman (D) 45 percent to 31 percent.

— Josh Kurtz

Quinter Drops Out of Race for Cardin’s Seat

State Del. Neil Quinter (D) last week dropped his bid to replace Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D) in the 3rd district and will instead seek a second term in the Legislature.

Quinter told The Baltimore Sun that his decision was based in part on the recent entry of lawyer John Sarbanes (D) — son of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D) — into the Congressional contest. Sarbanes, a Harvard Law School classmate of Quinter’s, raised more than $100,000 almost as soon as he entered the race.

Despite Quinter’s departure, the Democratic field is still quite crowded and includes the younger Sarbanes, former Baltimore Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson (the son of a former California Congressman), investment banker Oz Bengur, Anne Arundel County Councilman Bill Burlison (a former Missouri Congressman) and state Sen. Paula Hollinger.

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens, lawyer Kevin O’Keeffe, and state Del. Jon Cardin — the Congressman’s nephew — are also contemplating the race.

— J.K.

Pryce May Be Ripe for Tough Race Next Year

Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D) announced last week that she will challenge Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) in 2006, setting up what is likely to be the fourth- highest-ranking House Republican’s first competitive re-election race in more than a decade.

While Pryce has easily held the Columbus-based seat since 1992, the suburban district has grown more and more marginal in recent years and in the 2004 presidential contest voters were split almost evenly between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Kilroy was elected to the commission in 2000, after serving eight years on the Columbus School Board.

In announcing her campaign, Kilroy linked Pryce to the leadership of Bush and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) — a theme that is likely to be replicated throughout the next year. Ohio Republicans on the ballot next year are also a facing tumultuous environment due to the scandal-marred administration of Gov. Bob Taft (R).

— Lauren W. Whittington

Portuguese Americans Endorse Whitehouse Bid

Former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D) has been endorsed for Senate by a local Portuguese group.

The Portuguese American Citizens Committee and its 60-plus members came on board with the Whitehouse campaign earlier this month.

The endorsement comes on the heels of a battle between Whitehouse and his Democratic primary opponent, Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown, for Latino voters, who make up 9 percent of the Ocean State’s electorate.

Some of the prominent members of “Viva la Brown” are actually Portuguese. Voters of Portuguese descent have long played a significant role in Rhode Island politics.

The Portuguese group is hosting a fundraiser for Whitehouse on Nov. 14 in East Providence.

The winner in next September’s primary will face either Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) or Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey (R) next November.

— Nicole Duran