Three Democrats quit 7th District congressional race 29 candidates remain in March 5 primaries

January 06, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Only three Democrats withdrew as candidates for Rep. Kweisi Mfume's 7th District congressional seat before yesterday's deadline, leaving a 25-person field in the March 5 primary.

The extraordinary number of candidates is the most filing for a congressional seat in recent memory, perhaps in the state's history, election officials said.

The size of the field and the short time before the primary means that name recognition or the ability to raise money to pay for it through advertising is key.

Nevertheless, Herbert C. Smith, a Western Maryland College political science professor familiar with local politics, maintains that one candidate will emerge in the waning days of the campaign -- much the way Mr. Mfume did to win the nine-candidate Democratic primary in 1986.

"There's a coalescing of community sentiment in the primary," Mr. Smith said. "Normally when you have a big field, someone breaks out, the way Mfume did."

State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, chairman of the Eastside Democratic Organization, announced Thursday he was getting out of the race and throwing his support behind state Del. Elijah E. Cummings, the House speaker pro tem, who is from the city's Westside.

Mr. McFadden officially withdrew yesterday, as did Harold G. Gordon, a community activist from Woodmoor who lost a Baltimore County state Senate race in 1994 to Delores G. Kelley, another candidate for Mr. Mfume's seat.

John K. Milani, part owner of a Woodlawn pub, was the third Democrat to pull out.

"Looking at the race and the difficulty of raising funds, I decided I would drop out," Mr. Milani said. "We figured we had to raise $150,000 to $200,000, and we figured it wasn't possible to do in that short amount of time. We could not rely on a grass-roots effort."

All four Republicans running in the GOP primary stayed in the race.

Elsewhere in the state, just five candidates in congressional races withdrew between the Dec. 26 filing deadline and yesterday's withdrawal deadline.

That still left an all-time high of nearly 90 candidates running in races for Maryland's eight congressional seats. The previous record was 73 candidates in 1992, election officials said.

"There's a lot of discontent out there," Mr. Smith said. "It's a sign of a system -- the two-party system -- that's lost a lot of credibility."

In the 1st District, which mostly encompasses the Eastern Shore, Republican Scott L. Meredith of Barclay in Queen Anne's County withdrew. That leaves Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest facing opposition from four Republicans in the primary.

Republican Herbert J. Reisig Sr. of Finksburg in Carroll County got out of the 6th District race, reducing the primary field in the Western Maryland district to three, including incumbent Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett.

In Montgomery County's 8th District, two Republicans -- Arnold E. Anderjaska of Gaithersburg and Augustus Caesar Alzona of Bethesda -- abandoned the primary race against Rep. Constance A. Morella, who is viewed by some in the GOP as being too liberal for the party.

Among Ms. Morella's three remaining challengers is State Del. Barrie S. Ciliberti, a first-term legislator from Gaithersburg. Mr. Ciliberti, who has been active in the national Republican Party, is a 59-year-old businessman and professor at Bowie State University.

Douglas M. Canter of Bethesda, a Democrat who filed for the 8th District primary, took himself out of the race on Wednesday.

The 29 candidates in the 7th District race are running for a two-year term that begins in January 1997. Mr. Mfume announced last month that he was leaving Congress to head the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

A special primary -- with a separate filing deadline -- will be held to select a Democrat and a Republican to face off in a special general election for the right to complete the last 11 months of Mr. Mfume's current term.

The dates for the special elections have not been set by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, although he has said the special primary would be March 5, the same day as the regularly scheduled primary.

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