Labor group rejects endorsement of Reid Vote leaves unions free to back any 7th District candidate

January 25, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

After a heated floor fight last night, the Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO rejected a recommendation to back the Rev. Frank M. Reid III for the 7th Congressional District seat, deciding instead not to endorse any candidate in the primary race.

A controversial recommendation last week by the AFL-CIO's Metropolitan Baltimore Area Council to endorse Dr. Reid, who has no track record with labor, was beaten back by other state union leaders, most of whom were backing Del. Elijah E. Cummings.

The state labor federation's decision to forgo an endorsement means that the more than 200 individual unions in the Baltimore area are free to support any of the 32 candidates in the March 5 primary race to replace Rep. Kweisi Mfume -- who is stepping down next month to head the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- in the 7th District seat.

At one point during last night's meeting in Baltimore of the executive board of the statewide umbrella group for 420,000 union members, Mr. Cummings' name was put into nomination for endorsement. But that proposal was tabled and the panel recommended "no endorsement" in the race, union officials said.

Later, when the "no endorsement" recommendation came up for a floor vote by state labor delegates, union leaders backing Dr. Reid could not rally two-thirds of the voting members needed for the endorsement. Instead, a simple majority prevailed, meaning no endorsement, union officials said.

Supporters of Dr. Reid clearly were disappointed, but they attempted to put the best face on it after the vote.

"It was a victory," said Catherine E. Pugh, spokeswoman for Dr. Reid, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in West Baltimore and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's stepbrother. "The comments for Frank Reid's candidacy were overwhelming."

Ms. Pugh singled out Ernest R. Grecco, president of the Baltimore-area council, the largest of five area councils that make up the statewide federation, for defending the Reid endorsement recommendation during the floor fight.

"His comments on Dr. Reid's candidacy were outstanding," she said.

Ms. Pugh and Dr. Reid's campaign manager, Regina Thomas, were allowed into the closed voting session but then ejected after a complaint from Cummings' supporters, who had to wait in the lobby of the Baltimore-area council's headquarters on West Patapsco Avenue.

Julius Henson, Mr. Cummings' campaign manager, said he saw the rejection of Dr. Reid as a "great, great victory" because it frees the individual unions, such as the Baltimore Building Trades Council, to work for his candidate.

"I think it's a big win for us, and it puts the Reid campaign into a tailspin," Mr. Henson said. "They worked their whole campaign based on labor support and this chunk of labor money, and they failed miserably. They walked away with nothing, and they have to start over at the ground floor with 39 days to go."

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, said he saw the vote as a victory for his candidate.

The state federation also decided not to back a candidate in the 8th District congressional race, but it made the following endorsements:

In the 1st District, Democrat Michael C. Maloney of Cambridge; in the 2nd District, Democrat Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis; in the 3rd District, Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin; in the 4th District, Democratic Rep. Albert R. Wynn; in the 5th District, Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer; and in the 6th District, Democrat Stephen Crawford of Frederick.

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