BGE machinist, former Baltimore City sheriff join primary race for Mfume's 7th District seat Democratic field now 27

Cornish is fifth for GOP

January 23, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Robert Guy Matthews contributed to this article.

The already record-breaking number of candidates for the 7th District congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Kweisi Mfume got even larger last night, after two more Democrats joined the free-for-all in the March 5 primary.

The two Democrats jumped into the race before the state election board's 9 p.m. filing deadline in Annapolis.

The latest candidates are Shelton J. Stewart Jr., 53, the former Baltimore sheriff who was stripped of his office after a 1988 obstruction of justice conviction; and Craig Glenn Ring, 42, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. machinist from Catonsville. Their candidacies raised the number of Democrats in the race to 27.

The number of Republicans who signed up before an earlier filing deadline last month was four, but state election officials said yesterday that a fifth candidate has been qualified to run.

Monroe Cornish, 61, a perennial candidate from Baltimore with a history of mental problems, filed as a Democrat before the Dec. 26 deadline but was disqualified because his party affiliation actually was Republican. He later was qualified as a GOP TTC candidate and his name will appear on the ballot, election officials said last night.

The 27 Democrats and five Republicans are running in a merged primary election that combines a special primary election to fill Mr. Mfume's seat with the state's regular March 5 primary.

Mr. Mfume is stepping down next month to head the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The filing deadline for the merged primaries was reopened yesterday -- for just one day -- after Gov. Parris N. Glendening signed into law Friday emergency legislation that combined the two primaries. Without the change in the law, two separate primary elections would have been required. Democratic and Republican winners of the March 5 primary will compete April 16 in a special general election to determine which will fill the last nine months of Mr. Mfume's term. Those winners also would represent their parties in the Nov. 5 general election for the two-year congressional term that begins in January 1997.

The Rev. St. George I. B. Crosse III, a West Baltimore minister and occasional candidate, filed suit yesterday in federal court to stop the March 5 primary on the grounds that the merger of the elections was unconstitutional.

"It's a denial of due process to the citizens of the 7th District," he said.

But Chief U.S. District Judge Walter E. Black Jr. delayed ruling on Mr. Crosse's request for an injunction. "I've just got to look at it further," Judge Black said.

Mr. Crosse, who ran as a Republican against Mr. Mfume in 1986 when the congressman captured the seat, had considered running for the 7th District. He showed up last night at the state election board in Annapolis, but did not file as a candidate.

Mr. Stewart, convicted of obstruction of justice after a jury deadlocked on a bribery charge stemming from a state prosecutor's investigation of his campaign finances, has run for office at least twice since his 1988 case.

Last year, he ran for president of the Baltimore City Council, but placed fifth in a five-candidate Democratic primary field. The year before, he tried again for sheriff, but lost, running third in a four-person primary.

Mr. Cornish, convicted in 1981 of obstruction of justice for threatening a federal judge, was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at a federal prison medical center in 1989, after he was alleged to have taken Maryland's federal public defender hostage at gunpoint.

Mr. Cornish, who federal officials have said was diagnosed in 1969 as having a paranoid-schizophrenic personality, was released and lives in East Baltimore.

Mr. Ring, a self-described conservative and first-time office-seeker, said he decided to run for Mr. Mfume's seat because he was tired of the political "machines" controlling elections. In addition, he said, "I don't like the people that are running and the values that they stand for."

The 7th District was gerrymandered to give Mr. Mfume a concentration of the black vote in Baltimore city and county.

Nearly 80 percent of the district is in Baltimore City and reaches from West Baltimore across the central business district into East Baltimore and up to Northeast Baltimore. The remainder of the district is in the county -- where more than a quarter of the district's voters reside -- and stretches from Catonsville nearly to Reisterstown.

Nearly three-quarters of 7th District residents are minorities, most of them black, and more than 83 percent of the registered voters in the district are Democrats.

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