Maryland Lt. Governor Runs for Senate Seat

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Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (search), Maryland's (search) first black elected statewide official, is officially running for the U.S. Senate.

Steele, 47, launched his campaign Tuesday with a 20-minute speech, evoking lessons he learned growing up in a poor household that he said was "rich in turning hope into action."

State and national Republican leaders recruited Steele, and he is not expected to have any significant opposition in the GOP primary. Democrats have six candidates fighting for their party's nomination for the seat held by a retiring Democrat, Paul Sarbanes (search).

Republicans are hoping that Steele will be able to cut into the traditionally overwhelming support black voters give to Democratic candidates.

Kweisi Mfume (search), the only black Democratic Senate candidate, said it is far too early to tell whether Steele will be able to erode black support for Democrats.