Fight expected over union's endorsement in 7th Council recommended Reid, who does not have track record with labor

January 24, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Robert Guy Matthews contributed to this article.

A recommendation by Baltimore area unions that organized labor back the Rev. Frank M. Reid III in the 7th Congressional District race promises to spark a fight tonight, when the tTC Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO votes on candidate endorsements.

The recommendation of the AFL-CIO's Metropolitan Baltimore Area Council on Thursday to support Dr. Reid has caused a stir among other union leaders and legislators, because unlike some of the other 31 candidates in the race, he has no formal record of supporting labor.

And union officials say that probably will be the defining issue at the members' voting session this evening, after the meeting of the 51-member executive board of the Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO, the umbrella group for 420,000 union members statewide.

Even Dr. Reid's biggest union backer, Glenard S. Middleton Sr., executive director of Local 44 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), acknowledges that an endorsement of Dr. Reid could be in trouble.

"Yes, there will be a floor fight," Mr. Middleton said. "I don't know if we can bring out two-thirds of the vote [required for the endorsement], but we'll see what we can do.

"It can go either way, but either way, we'll win."

Dr. Reid, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in West Baltimore and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's stepbrother, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Ernest R. Grecco, president of the Baltimore area council, one of the five area councils that make up the statewide federation, said that his group's recommendation to endorse Dr. Reid is far from done.

"The recommendation was not unanimous; there was discussion about taking a 'no endorsement' [stance]," Mr. Grecco said. "It's possible that the recommendation of the council could be overturned.

"It will be controversial -- no question about it."

Asked how the unions in his council could endorse a candidate with no track record with labor, he said: "I've asked that question myself."

But Mr. Grecco said that after talking with Dr. Reid and reviewing his answers to a labor questionnaire, he was sold on him.

The council president also confirmed that Dr. Reid was the only 7th District candidate who attended the council's Annual Leadership Conference earlier this month in Atlantic City, N.J.

In fact, Dr. Reid did not attend the only public forum so far of 7th District candidates -- an event sponsored by Marylanders Organized for Responsibility and Equity (MORE) -- on Jan. 3 because he was in Atlantic City meeting with union officials, Mr. Middleton confirmed yesterday.

Mr. Middleton said he and the leaders of five other union locals invited Dr. Reid because he asked to meet with them before announcing his candidacy.

All five of the labor leaders Mr. Middleton mentioned are also members of the Baltimore Response Team, a union-backed campaign committee controlled by state Sen. Larry Young.

But Mr. Middleton said that connection was "a coincidence" and that Mr. Young had nothing to do with the endorsement.

Mr. Young -- who has not publicly endorsed a candidate, although he attended Dr. Reid's announcement last month, as did Mr. Middleton -- said yesterday that he did not have anything to do with the council's endorsement of Dr. Reid.

Several other legislators, including state Del. Howard P. Rawlings, say they are unimpressed with the Baltimore area council's recommendation of Dr. Reid.

"They ought to at least interview the candidates before they make their endorsements," said Mr. Rawlings, a West Baltimore Democrat who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "You look at candidates such as Delegate Elijah Cummings and Delegate Salima Marriott who have been strong union supporters, and this is a slap in the face to them.

"It certainly doesn't help the unions' position here in Annapolis, where there are several major bills they're interested in now pending before the committees."

Meanwhile, a U.S. District Court judge ruled yesterday against an injunction that would have forced the state to hold a separate special primary to fill the soon-to-be-vacated seat of Rep. Kweisi Mfume.

Chief Judge Walter E. Black Jr. cleared the way for the special primary to be combined with the regular March 5 primary, noting that the unusual action would not deny voters their rights and that the state would be saved the cost of holding two primaries.

The Rev. St. George I. B. Crosse III, a one-time congressional candidate, filed for an injunction Monday, alleging that combining the primaries was unconstitutional and restricted voter choices.

He also said voters would better understand having separate primaries.

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