The Maryland Democratic Party is playing the race card in a mailing aimed at driving black voters to the polls for the gubernatorial election.
The glossy mailings, sent out in the days before the beginning of early voting, target black voters in key areas in support of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown. Samples obtained by The Daily Record were sent to voters in Charles and Prince George’s Counties.
“They’ve placed a lot of roadblocks in our path at every turn,” reads the flier over segregationist images from the Civil Rights era as well as more recent photos relating to voter ID laws and real estate mogul Donald Trump and his views on President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
In addition to the message that evokes racial tension, the mailing urges voters to come out for the early voting period and reminds voters that Brown would be the first black governor in Maryland history—a designation from which Brown has shied away.
Political observers say the mailings are yet another sign that the race for governor between Brown, the Democrat, and Republican Larry Hogan is closer than the Democratic Party would like.
“I’m not saying they’re scared but the race is definitely tighter,” said John Bullock, assistant professor of political science at Towson University.
Bullock added that the mailing attempts to paint Hogan in a racially derogatory light without using his name or image.
“It doesn’t specifically say Hogan is this person but it definitely goes there,” Bullock said. “It’s making a direct appeal to race and clearly targeting black voters.”
Voter turnout, especially in jurisdictions with large African American populations is seen as key to a victory for Brown in a race where polls indicate a lack of excitement, soft support for the Democrat and his boss, Gov. Martin J. O’Malley and a Republican electorate that is angry and poised to come to the polls.
Prince George’s County is home to the largest population of black voters. Charles County has seen a 22 percent growth in its minority populations according to the most recent U.S. Census. The black population of Charles County nearly doubled in that decade.
Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College, said the mailing is similar to others in North Carolina and in Georgia that highlight racial division to evoke emotional responses in order to turn out black voters.
“This mailing really seems to suggest that some people in Maryland want to take someone else’s rights away,” Eberly said. It’s not a claim that can be substantiated nor defended.”
“The implied ‘they’ has to be Republicans—who else can it be?” Eberly said. “If this is what the Democratic Party has to do to get people to vote then they should probably take a look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why they don’t have a positive message to get people to the polls.”
Similar mailings have appeared in other states.
In North Carolina, fliers using images of lynchings were used to support the campaign of Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
In Georgia, the state Democratic Party sent mailings that included images and text warning that a failure to vote could result in incidents of police violence against blacks. The mailing specifically referenced the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Democrats in Maryland used similar tactics in 1998 against Ellen Sauerbrey in her gubernatorial bid against incumbent Gov. Parris N. Glendening. The Julius Henson-devised ads attacked the Baltimore County Republican on civil rights issues.