The political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus has decided not to endorse Rep. Donna Edwards for Senate -- despite the fact that the Prince George's County Democrat would be the first African-American elected to the chamber from Maryland.
The CBC's political action committee decided to table Edwards' endorsement during a meeting late Thursday night, multiple sources with knowledge of the decision told The Baltimore Sun. It is not clear whether the board will take up the matter again.
The decision, first reported by Politico, is a blow to Edwards, who has made the historic nature of her potential election a central component of her message, and who is hoping to turn out a high share of black voters in her campaign to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
But that effort has been undercut by her opponent in the race, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, who has secured endorsements from some of the state's best known African American leaders, including Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker.
An Edwards campaign spokesman dismissed the decision, noting that former Rep. Al Wynn is a board member of the CBC's political action committee. Edwards defeated Wynn in a 2008 primary that was among the most closely watched House races in the nation at the time.
"This result does not come as a surprise given that former congressman turned lobbyist Al Wynn, whom Donna defeated in a Democratic primary in 2008, is an active member of the PAC board," Edwards spokesman Ben Gerdes said in a statement.
Wynn, who represented Maryland's 4th Congressional District from 1993 to 2008, declined to comment.
Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus have endorsed Edwards, including Democratic Reps. Lacy Clay of Missouri, Robin Kelly of Illinois, Hank Johnson of Georgia and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin. The caucus itself does not endorse candidates and the PAC's board is made up of only a small number of CBC members.
Still, Edwards has received the support of only a fraction of the CBC's 46 members.
There was initially a sense that some members were waiting out of respect for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat and former CBC chairman who had considered a run for Senate himself. But when Cummings announced this month he would not seek the seat, there was no groundswell of CBC support directed toward Edwards.
A poll released in January by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies found a close race, with Van Hollen ahead only slightly and within the survey's margin of error. Among black voters, however, Edwards led 65 percent to Van Hollen's 15 percent.