By ROBERT BAIRD, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - Candidate C. Anthony Muse, running to unseat Sen. Ben Cardin, defended his campaign literature, which singled out Jews in the upper chamber, as "educational tools" designed to emphasize the low numbers of blacks in Congress.
But critics are charging that the materials -- which, in toting up the numbers of different races in the Senate, identify just one religious group and separate Jews from whites -- are designed to show there are "too many Jews in the Senate."
At issue are how-to-vote cards distributed by Democratic Senate candidate C. Anthony Muse that identify "Jewish" as a demographic distinct from "White."
Leaflets carrying an authority line from Muse's campaign are being distributed at early voting centers. They list the demographic breakdown of the U.S. Senate, listing 84 senators as white, two as Hispanic, two as Asian, 12 as Jewish and no Native Americans or blacks.
There were no breakdowns of any other religious affiliations.
Muse campaign spokesman Terry Speigner said the leaflet was not aimed at Cardin, who is Jewish.
"We have not thrown mud, and we do not intend to throw mud," he said.
Speigner said the leaflets were intended as "educational tools" to remind voters of the lack of representation of African Americans in the U.S. Senate. (Muse is one of a handful of black candidates for the Senate seat, including Raymond Blagmon, a Democrat, and Republicans Robert Broadus and Corrogan Vaughn.)
Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said he doesn't understand why race and religion are relevant in an election.
"Looking at the document, the only implication I can draw is maybe there are too many Jews (in the Senate)," he said.
"Clearly the only religion (Muse) is interested in identifying is Senator Cardin's," he said.
"I am hoping we are publically moving beyond many questions of race, there should be so many other questions...in determining their suitability for public office," he said.
The leaflet also depicts Muse alongside President Barack Obama with the words "making history together." Speigner said this was natural since Muse is endorsing the president and encouraging his supporters to vote Obama.
"They are 'making history together'...it will be the first time a black president is re-elected...and this will be the first time Maryland elects an African-American senator," he said.
However, Obama officially endorsed Cardin last November, calling him "one of the good guys," and recently campaigned with him in Prince George's County.
Cardin has defeated prominent black opponents before. In his inaugural election to the Senate in 2006, he defeated former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume in a close primary. He then went on to defeat then-Lt. Gov. of Maryland Michael Steele, a black Republican, in the general election. Mfume has endorsed Cardin for re-election.
In February, Cardin also received the endorsement of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, a group of Baltimore-based ministers.
The Cardin campaign would not comment directly on the leaflet. The senator's spokeswoman Sue Walitsky said Cardin is "proud" of the campaign he is running, and "will let others be responsible for their own actions and materials."
"Cardin has worked to represent all Marylanders," she said.
Early polling has begun, and voters will choose the Maryland Democratic candidate on Tuesday.
CNS tried to contact several other organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, but did not receive a response before deadline.
(Copyright 2012 by Capital News Service. All Rights Reserved.)