Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Politics of Race in the D18 Race

Apparently, the politics were not just black v. Latino v. white. The Gazette reports that Roz Pelles was pressured to drop out to prevent division in the African-American vote:

Rosalyn W. Pelles of Silver Spring, said she was being urged by some African American members of the county’s Democratic Central Committee to withdraw.

Pelles, the AFL-CIO’s national director of civil, human, and women’s rights and former executive director of the National Rainbow Coalition, said she would not drop out.

‘‘There’s a lot of concern in the community about making sure that we continue to bring people of color into the House of Delegates,” she said. ‘‘I think people wanted to maximize the opportunity to get a person of color in office.”

Pelles said the concerns were ‘‘coming from various corridors” but declined to say from whom.

‘‘I believe that it’s from the lack of looking at a bigger picture,” said her son Hugh Bailey, a former Montgomery County Council candidate. ‘‘I believe part of the pressure my mother is receiving is the age-old argument: concern about splitting the vote for a candidate of color.”

Pelles and Kensington Town Councilman Alfred C. Carr Jr., another candidate for the seat, are both African American.

Bailey equated the pressure on his mother to his own council campaign last year. Bailey was one of four African American men in a field of about 15 candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for four council seats.

‘‘I got a lot of pressure from people saying that there were too many black people in the race. ... I don’t think that the county and communities of color should be over concerned about having people of color secure the seats that they should dissuade people of color who are qualified candidates for running. It’s counter productive.”

County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, a Pelles supporter, had also heard about pressure being placed on Pelles to drop out.

“This is indicative of a time past when a handful of African Americans could dictate what leaders were given an opportunity for political positions,“ said Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring. “Those times have passed. I don't understand the notion that we can have 'only one.' ... I applaud her courage for remaining as a candidate.“

I don't understand the pressure on Roz myself. Since the election took place according to a runoff system, the supporters of Roz could always go to Al or vice-versa on a second ballot. While I supported Al, I thought the race was richer for Roz's presence if only because candidates had to flesh out their position and work for support. Moreover, many people clearly thought highly of her, including the family of Del. Jane Lawton, whose sudden passing caused the vacancy.