Steele Concedes to Senator-Elect
By Leticia Linn
Wednesday, Nov. 8,
WASHINGTON - Maryland showed off its most vibrant hue of Democratic
blue in the U.S. Senate race Tuesday when its voters picked
unassuming Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin over charismatic
Republican Lt. Gov Michael Steele, who conceded the victory
Wednesday in a very emotional speech.
It was a race with national implications -- a loss here could
have put Democrats in a much shakier position in their effort to
take control of the Senate.
Cardin got 54.7 percent of the vote and comfortably won in
majority black Prince George's County and Baltimore City,
according to the Maryland State Board of Elections. Steele
garnered 43.7 percent, and his vote percentage in those two
areas was similar to the ones he and Gov. Robert Ehrlich had in
the 2002 election.
Tri-party candidate Kevin Zeese got 1.5 percent of the votes, .9 percent in Prince George's County and 2.1 percent in
Even though Cardin claimed victory during election night and
had a press conference the following morning as the new
senator-elect, Steele did not concede the race until noon Wednesday,
when he addressed a crowd in an elegant room in the State House
and many of his supporters cried or had tears in their eyes.
"The Ehrlich-Steele team is alive and well, folks," Steele
began. He earlier congratulated Cardin on his victory. "I
enjoyed sparring with him over the past few months. I wished him
well and wished Myrna (Cardin) well," he said.
Steele said he hoped Cardin "will bring to the table so many
who have been left on the side, and I told him that
specifically, don't forget the poor, don't forget those who are
trying their best but, like Thurgood Marshall said, need a hand
or two to help them.
"I asked for six years as a U.S. senator, that's all I ever
wanted. But the people thought otherwise, and I trust them and
their judgment," he said.
Steele promised to stay involved with the community, because
"you're not defined by the office you hold, you're defined by
what you do."
The lieutenant governor thanked several black leaders who
supported him through the campaign, particularly Democrat and former Prince George's County Executive Wayne T. Curry.
"I don't know how many people appreciate how difficult that
was for them, but I want them to know and I want all of Maryland
to know how much I appreciate that effort," he said.
Steele had mounted an aggressive campaign to win the black
vote in Prince George's County. That strategy was unsuccessful,
according to the numbers. Cardin got 76 percent of the county's
vote. Cardin also won 75.2 percent in Baltimore City, which also
has a high black population.
Steele took 23 percent of the Prince George's vote and 22.7
percent in Baltimore City. When he ran as lieutenant governor
with Ehrlich in 2002, the slate got 22.9 in Prince George's
County and 24.2 in Baltimore City.
Around 29 percent of Maryland's population is black,
according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and they usually make up
about 20 percent of Maryland's general election voters.
"We start today working for the people of Maryland," Cardin
said Wednesday morning in a news conference with Sen. Barbara
Mikulski, D-Md., even before Steele conceded the race. Cardin
stressed the critical impact of the Iraq war on Tuesday's
nationwide election results.
"It's clear what the American people want - a different
policy in Iraq. It's clear that they get it and understand that
staying the course and waiting it out won't work," he said.
"We need to come up with a different strategy and start to
bring our troops home."
The United States needs to "energize" the international
community to negotiate ceasefires, Cardin said, and end the
civil war in Iraq through diplomacy.
Cardin voted against the war in Iraq, a factor he highlighted
during the campaign.
Universal health insurance and increasing federal aid for
college tuition will also be among Cardin's priorities, he said.
Mikulski, who will become the state's senior senator, said
she is "excited" about working on those issues with Cardin.
"I'll tell you what I'm excited about, is that after Ben is
sworn in, that we put our Maryland jerseys on when we're on the
floor of the United States Senate. I can see it, within that
first 100 days, the Cardin amendment to change the Medicare
prescription drug benefit, to close the coverage gap," said
"This is what I see, is that every day, him taking one issue,
I taking another, backing us up, working for Maryland, working
"Well, Team Maryland's got to huddle," said Mikulski, as she
took Cardin by the arm and led him into her office building.
Capital News Service reporters David Silverman and Chris
Yakatis contributed to this story.
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