Approval of joint vote means more could seek Mfume seat 7th District-state primary adds day to filing period

January 20, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening signed into law yesterday emergency legislation that combines the special primary election to fill the 7th District congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Kweisi Mfume with the state's regular March 5 primary.

But what was intended to be a way to simplify the primary ballot for voters by merging the two primaries could complicate it by making the already crowded field -- a record-breaking 25 Democrats and four Republicans -- larger.

The measure, as amended by the General Assembly last week, will open up the closed filing deadline for the seat one more day. Under the legislation, candidates will be able to file for the seat at the state election board in Annapolis until 9 p.m. Monday.

That deadline was set by the legislature to accommodate candidates who want to run for the special primary to complete the last nine months of Mr. Mfume's term. But to simplify the ballot, the deadline also was extended one day for people seeking to run for the two-year congressional term that begins in January 1997.

The candidates who already have filed for the two-year term will not be required to file again for the race to complete Mr. Mfume's unexpired term.

Under the legislation, the Democratic and Republican winners of the March 5 primary will face each other in a special general election April 16 to complete Mr. Mfume's term. The primary winners also will be their parties' nominees in the Nov. 5 general election for the next two-year congressional term.

Should one of the primary winners desire to serve only the short term, that candidate would have to formally decline the nomination for the two-year term after the election. Then, the state central committee of that candidate's party would have to convene to elect a replacement nominee for the Nov. 5 general election.

"This is an unprecedented circumstance in Maryland election history that we are having a congressional vacancy filled at the same time we have a [congressional] primary," said Maryland Secretary of State John T. Willis, Mr. Glendening's chief political strategist who oversaw the crafting of the legislation.

Mr. Willis explained that the circumstances necessitated the change in the law so that Mr. Mfume's seat could be filled as soon as possible, while simplifying the ballot for voters and keeping down the costs to the state, Baltimore and Baltimore County election boards.

Mr. Mfume is leaving Congress Feb. 18 to head the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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