Candidates court state's undecided minority vote Blacks could give candidate boost in primary Tuesday

February 28, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

Because of erroneous information supplied to The Sun, an article in Friday's editions reported incorrectly that Baltimore community activist Bea Gaddy had made an endorsement in Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary. Mrs. Gaddy said yesterday that she has endorsed none of the candidates.

The Sun regrets the error.

Democratic presidential candidates are intensifying their efforts to court blacks, who nonetheless remain largely undecided with the Maryland primary just four days away.

Black leaders say Tom Harkin and Bill Clinton have demonstrated the most appeal in the minority community, which makes up 25 percent to 30 percent of Democratic voters and could give a candidate a big boost Tuesday.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Although the candidates are relying mostly on positive campaigning to woo voters, Mr. Harkin attacked Mr. Clinton yesterday for his remarks Wednesday about civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.

Mr. Clinton, unaware of an open microphone nearby, accused Mr. Jackson of "back-stabbing" when a reporter told him erroneously that the civil rights leader was endorsing Mr. Harkin.

"I'll tell you this, I wouldn't treat" Mr. Jackson "the way the governor of Arkansas has treated him," Mr. Harkin said yesterday.

The Iowa senator's comments were made at a news conference at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where he appeared with about 20 black and white leaders who have endorsed him. Earlier, his campaign manager met with black ministers in Prince George's County.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign began airing a radio advertisementin which Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke praises the Arkansas governor.

Two other Democrats are fighting for a share of the black vote in Maryland.

Paul E. Tsongas received the endorsement yesterday of former Baltimore Mayor Clarence H. "Du" Burns. Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey's campaign plans to run radio advertisements featuring two black officials who have endorsed him, Baltimore City Councilman Lawrence A. Bell, D-4th, and state Sen. Decatur W. Trotter, D-Prince George's.

"I hope to show that we come out at least even with Clinton" among black voters, said Mr. Tsongas' Maryland campaign chairman, Pat Smith.

Mr. Smith said the candidate's wife, Niki, campaigned Wednesday at mostly black schools in Maryland and visited the Southeast Baltimore soup kitchen run by Bea Gaddy, who he said has endorsed Mr. Tsongas.

Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr., the former California governor, has not campaigned actively in Maryland, but he will spend Sunday night at Ms. Gaddy's shelter.

Much of the uncertainty about the voting inclinations of blacks stems from Mr. Jackson's passive role in the race. When he ran for the Democratic nomination in 1988, he received more than 90 percent of the black vote in several states.

He hasn't endorsed anyone this year, giving no guidance to black voters who might want to know his views.

But Mr. Jackson remains a formidable presence because the candidates don't want to offend him -- Mr. Clinton quickly apologized for his statements Wednesday -- and Mr. Harkin longs for an endorsement to help keep his struggling campaign alive.

In fact, top Harkin aides confidentially informed some reporters earlier this week that Mr. Jackson was preparing to endorse him, which perhaps was the source of the rumor relayed to Mr. Clinton.

Mr. Harkin has repeatedly emphasized that his views are closest Mr. Jackson's. "My agenda is the Rainbow Coalition's right down the line," Mr. Harkin said yesterday, referring to the organization headed by Mr. Jackson.

Unless something dramatic happens between now and Tuesday, black leaders in Maryland generally predict that Mr. Harkin and Mr. Clinton will fare best among black voters.

But some say Mr. Tsongas could do well because of the publicity hegenerated as the winner of the New Hampshire primary last week.

Mr. Kerrey, who is not scheduled to campaign in Maryland, is given less chance of winning black votes. Mr. Brown appears to have little if any support among blacks.

"He reminds me of somebody lost outside of a bus station," Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md.-7th, said of Mr. Brown. "I'm totally unimpressed with him."

Mr. Mfume, however, is not much more impressed with the other candidates. Following Mr. Jackson's lead, he is waiting for them to morespecifically address issues of interest to blacks.

The Baltimore congressman said blacks want a "man of substance" who will "fight for equal protection of the law" for all "and forcibly say that as part of what they believe in." The candidates also should be more concerned about the homeless, especially children, the lack of opportunities for inner-city residents and the health needs of people who are under-insured as well as uninsured, he said.

Although Mr. Mfume won't endorse anyone because, he said, "I've yet to be inspired," his predecessor is backing Mr. Harkin.

Former Rep. Parren J. Mitchell, also a Democrat, appeared with Mr. Harkin at the airport and said he would do a radio ad for him.

Although rooting for the Iowan, Mr. Mitchell said the "fact that the mayor has endorsed Clinton . . . carries a lot of weight."

And he said Mr. Tsongas will benefit from Gov. William Donald Schaefer's endorsement this week.

"You've got a situation where a number of people in the Baltimore black community are still loyal to Don Schaefer -- don't tell me why," said Mr. Mitchell, never an admirer of Mr. Schaefer.

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