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MD Black Voters Angry, But Still Back Obama

President Obama's support of same-sex marriage and high unemployment rates will play a role in the election.

By JULIE BAUGHMAN and MATT FLEMING
Capital News Service

Maryland's black communities overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama's historic rise to the presidency four years ago, but this time around, his support for same-sex marriage and the nation's continuing high unemployment are tempering African-American voters' enthusiasm for his re-election bid.

Four years ago, estimates put African-American support nationally as high as 96 percent. But as the Democratic National Convention gears up in Charlotte, N.C., this week, the Obama campaign will have to work hard to limit a natural falling off of supporters in a race tied in national polling where every vote will count.

"In 2008, it was the first time an African-American was seriously considered for president of the United States, and it was unprecedented," said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. "Naturally, to capture that again at the same level of outward display of enthusiasm is difficult. But that doesn't mean people won't vote for him, there is just no way to top the 'first time.'

It is more than a fading new-car smell, though. Two issues in particular working to undermine this optimism are the president's support of same-sex marriage and a high unemployment rate plaguing the African-American community.

The Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the National Black Church Initiative, said he expects many black voters, especially Christians, to abstain from voting for a new president while casting ballots against Gov. Martin O'Malley's same-sex marriage bill.

The bill, signed into law in March, would legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. However, more than 100,000 citizens opposed to this idea signed a petition to put the issue to voters on the presidential election ballot this November.

Evans, and many others seem to be positive that voters will overturn same-sex marriage. "The president knows that we oppose him on this particular issue," Evans said, "(Obama's) career has just ended by opposing the power of the black church."

Terrence Biggs, a 33-year-old African-American Gaithersburg resident, disagrees. Biggs said he believes that, while many churchgoing black voters do fiercely trust their pastors, many of whom oppose same-sex marriage, they trust Obama equally if not more.

"I think I trust him more than I trust my pastor," Biggs said. "I'm not voting for my pastor (for president)."

When Obama finally came out in support of marriage equality in May, black voters uncomfortable with that position will still support Obama because of the trust and respect that they have for him.

"The opinions changed when they heard an opinion from someone they respect as much as their pastor," Biggs said.

Evans said Obama's loss of black followers, and what he feels will be a subsequent loss of the election, is also exacerbated by continuing high unemployment among blacks. He said that Obama has not done nearly enough to improve the unemployment rate in Maryland and the country.

"He has not been good for us," Evans said.

However, Calvin Ball, Howard County councilman and acting chairman of the Maryland Association of Counties Minority Caucus, disagreed, saying Maryland voters will stand behind Obama regardless of his stance on marriage equality or his difficulty improving unemployment levels.

"I think that the vast majority of people who support President Obama do not support him because of one issue. They support our president because of the commitment, leadership and the caring that he shows and has shown on a myriad of issues," Ball said.

According to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, unemployment in Maryland has increased from 4.5 percent in July 2008 to 7.1 percent in July 2012. However, unemployment is down from 8.6 percent in February 2010, the highest it has been since Obama took office.

Similarly, unemployment in Baltimore City and Prince George's County, the areas with the state's highest concentration of black citizens, has increased from 7 percent in July 2008 to 11.1 percent in July 2012 and 4.6 percent in July 2008 to 7.1 percent in July 2012, respectively. These numbers are also down from 12.6 percent in July and August 2010 in Baltimore City and 8 percent in Prince George's County in January, February and July of 2010, the highest they have been since the start of Obama's presidency.

Ball was quick to defend Obama's employment policies and referenced his many attempts to pass legislation that were quickly shot down in Congress. When Obama entered office, he said, many people were losing jobs, but now near the end of his term, jobs are being gained slowly, but steadily, nationwide.

If campaign contributions are any indication, the numbers reflect a slight dip in support. The Federal Election Commission reported that Maryland contributions totaled more than $8 million, compared to 2008, when CNS reported Obama having received nearly $9 million through the end of July.

"I'm doing fundraising, volunteer work, and was at the campaign office the other day to get volunteers," said Karren Pope-Onwukwe, a delegate to this year's Democratic National Convention. "I had one woman the other day give $25 at a dinner with Obama. That's the thing -- people don't have to give a lot of money. You can go online and buy a mug or something; it's all supporting the campaign."

People have been doing just that. Despite the staggering unemployment rates, the money is still coming in.

"It's about the same," said Norma Lindsay, the Prince George's County Central Committee chairwoman.  "I haven't seen any difference. Now other places, I don't know, but Prince George's County, we are exactly where we should be."

Delegate Emmett Burns, D-Baltimore County, who heads an Economic Matters subcommittee on unemployment insurance, agrees with Ball that unemployment has, "been (on) an upward trend as the economy worsens," but that voters, particularly black voters, will not place direct blame for their unemployment woes on Obama.

"I think they're going to go out and support him in great numbers," said Burns.

Voter turnout would be more predictable if people voted based on one issue. Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby said that "voter group predictions should be based on socio-economic subgroups and not by race," and pointed to Michael Steele's failed bid for lieutenant governor.

"At the end of the day, voters will see that the Republicans are not coming up with real answers as to how to create jobs," said Mosby. "The stimulus package and other job-creating mechanisms may not have lived up to your expectations, but it was an attempt at solving a complex economic crisis that has been inherited from failed policies of past administrations."

One of the most outspoken critics of the president's support of same-sex marriage, Burns, a minister at Rising Sun Baptist Church in Woodlawn, condemned the president's actions, but has since reiterated his overall support for the president.

"Though many don't like same-sex marriage, ultimately, the president will do more to help the country than Mitt Romney will," Burns said.

The president will need all the support he can get, if he hopes to defeat Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The two have been neck-and-neck, with the most recent CBS News poll, released on Aug. 28, showing Obama with a slim one-point lead, 46 to 45 percent.

There is still a long two-and-a-half months left for the campaign to play out, so any polling is premature.

"The enthusiasm may have dampened on the surface," said Leggett. "But you won't know more until closer to the election."

Demetria Greene September 04, 2012 at 05:01 PM
The people who attend church pay taxes, too. They have every right to have a say in the village square as an atheist or a Muslim. Yes, it does mean they will be drawing from a set of core spiritual beliefs. AA pastors may influence/assure 45-55% of their congregations that PO will do no further harm in this 'ssm' issue in forcing its open acceptance in the Church Body. Its the other hard core believers that have watched them do something akin to spitting on/burning a bible in public. "Ohhhh, ..o.k., I see where y'all are going with this, y'all are just getting started good, forcing us to go against God." Preachers know you can't spend the last 2,000 years saying lying, murder, stealing, whore-mongering and homosexuality is wrong from scripture to say now its okay cause its political. Forcing that issue on the Church is going to go over like a 'Klan cross burning' at a southern black church picnic - don't bother calling the police, just call the coroner's office and tell them to bring lots of bags. Some are sooooo p----- off that the NAACP/Sharpton/Jackson went along with 'selling out" the 'REAL' suffering. Negros hanging from trees, hacked to pieces, bombed churches with little Sunday School kids in them, disappearing from jails and over mere accusations. A legacy of all of this and worse to some who don't no near where meet the same suffering criteria to them. "Houston, y'all got a problem."
Just a guy September 04, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Demetria, Do you really think that the government will somehow force any church to marry anybody, let alone accept them? I don't think so. As for what's in the bible, there are lots of prohibitions in the old testament, as in Leviticus 18-22, yep, gay is in there, along with no pork, taking the Lords name in vain, (punishable by death), various forms of incest... Women are unclean during their periods, it's ok to have several wives... At least in English translations. (you do know the bible wasn't written in English? And translations are sometimes sketchy...) Nothing in the bible forbids slavery, funny... Maybe a better reading of the original Hebrew... http://hoperemains.webs.com/leviticus1822.htm Well maybe the anti gay thing is a bit overvlown? Maybe something to think about...
Buck Harmon September 05, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Here's the deal...both Democrats and republicans have played an equal role in screwing our Country into the ground. The vast majority of Americans are dumbed to apathy, and remain in the realm of not really caring about what goes on in the corrupt political arena....corruption fuels apathy.It's all a blur to the majority and both parties seem to prefer it that way. Our Country needs to completely bottom out, much like a drug addict has to before any degree of recovery can begin. Once we have successfully achieved the point of rock bottom the masses will begin to wake up and pay attention....problem is, both parties fear this and will continue to project false information about perceived recovery. If either party were capable of leading our country properly, we would never have fallen to this point. A vote for either of these candidates will only prolong the agony and continue to perpetuate the American illusion...straight or phillips?...that is the question...
Buck Harmon September 05, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Always remember that more Americans choose not to participate in politics than do. More Americans don't vote than do. Apathy is our Countries drug of choice...and the political arena thrives on that fact.
Buck Harmon September 05, 2012 at 12:54 PM
We have become a Humpty Dumpty country..

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