A coalition of black political leaders endorsed a slate of Democratic and independent candidates for Annapolis' eight City Council seats yesterday, prompting one Republican incumbent to question the fairness of the selections.
Sheryl Banks, chairwoman of the Black Political Forum of Anne Arundel County, said her group will attempt to rally the black community to the polls in the Nov. 2 election in an attempt to oust several incumbent Republicans.
"We're calling out to not only the African-American community but residents throughout this city," Ms. Banks said during a press conference at the First Baptist Church on Washington Street. "We would like to see fewer petty incidents at the City Council and a better working body."
Afterward, Alderman M. Teresa DeGraff, a Ward 7 Republican, questioned the fairness of the endorsements. She said the Black Political Forum had not sponsored any candidate debates since the primary or interviewed any of the GOP candidates.
"It would have been a common courtesy if they had interviewed all of us," Ms. DeGraff said. "But it's not surprising; they've never endorsed a Republican for public office."
The forum's endorsements are: in Ward 1, Craig Purcell; Ward 2, Alderman Dean Johnson, an independent; Ward 3, Alderman Samuel Gilmer; Ward 4, Shep Tullier; Ward 5, Alderman Carl Snowden; Ward 6, Kenneth Kirby; Ward 7, Rick Staisloff, and Ward 8, Alderman Ellen Moyer.
Ms. Banks said her group, which includes 84 members countywide, had garnered more than enough information on the candidates from their campaigns and their past records on the council.
"The Republican candidates have not only not addressed African-American concerns, they have made no attempts to win the African-American vote," said Ms. Banks, noting that blacks make up about 30 percent of the city's population.
Ms. Banks said the Black Political Forum did not endorse Ms. DeGraff because of her handling of the Bay Ridge Garden Apartments, which the City Council condemned last March after finding 600 building code violations. Although Ms. DeGraff finally did act to shut the complex, the group felt she should have responded years sooner to residents' complaints.
"For her, putting sidewalks outside the complex was more important than how these people lived inside," Ms. Banks said.
The Black Political Forum will not be endorsing a candidate in the mayoral race, Ms. Banks said.