Cummings wins endorsement of Catonsville-area coalition Candidacy picks up speed in 7th District campaign

January 31, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

A coalition of political and community leaders in Southwest Baltimore County has decided to throw its support -- a bloc of as many as 9,000 votes -- behind Del. Elijah E. Cummings in the race for the 7th District congressional seat.

The group of a dozen leaders finalized its decision Monday, after weighing which of the 27 Democrats in the March 5 primary for Rep. Kweisi Mfume's seat would best represent the small but potentially potent pocket of constituents in the Catonsville area.

The endorsement boosts Mr. Cummings' campaign, which has been gaining momentum in recent weeks, and marks the first major foray into the political back yard of another powerful contender for the seat, Baltimore County state Sen. Delores G. Kelley.

"I am, of course, elated," said Mr. Cummings, the House speaker pro tem and four-term legislator from West Baltimore. "It is a tremendous vote of confidence from this very important area of Baltimore County, and I'm looking forward to working with them very closely."

Ms. Kelley, whose legislative district falls just north of the Catonsville area and straddles the city line, said she was "not bothered" by the group's backing, but added, "I would have liked to have had their endorsement."

She noted that she had her own "parallel organization" in the Catonsville area, and said the endorsement "doesn't at all lessen my interest in that area."

Ms. Kelley also said the coalition's decision to back a candidate "was a very smart move for any community organization."

The coalition, which brings together once-warring factions in the county, agreed to unite and back Mr. Cummings, who was among several candidates who gave assurances that the area would receive their attention should they be elected.

"We'll marshal the forces of all our individual campaigns and organizations behind Elijah," said Del. Thomas E. Dewberry, who represents District 47B, about half the area. "If we can get our area to vote as a solid bloc, we can put him over the top."

Another member of the group, John "Jack" K. Milani, part-owner of Monaghan's Pub in Woodlawn who withdrew from the 7th District race, said he believes the coalition will deliver up to 45 percent of the area's Democratic vote to Mr. Cummings.

"When you think of the numbers [of votes] in Baltimore County, and you look at what we think we can do, it's probably over," said Mr. Milani, who lost to Mr. Dewberry by just 81 votes in a bitter 1994 primary battle.

They say the organizations and leaders in state legislative District 47B and the adjacent District 12A could account for 15 percent to 20 percent of the total voter turnout in the primary.

More than 42 percent of the Democratic vote in the Baltimore County portion of the 7th District -- nearly 20,000 Democrats -- lies in legislative Districts 47B and 12A.

In interviewing candidates in the past few weeks, the group asked for a congressional district office in the Catonsville area, their pick of the community leader to run it, and a representative who is visible, accessible and geared toward constituent service.

Others in the ad hoc coalition are: Baltimore County Councilman Stephen G. "Sam" Moxley and his one-time opponent for the seat, George A. Abendschoen, a liquor store owner and former staff member for former Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden; Howard County state Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, whose 12th District extends into Baltimore County; and Thomas E. Booth, a Catonsville developer who lost to him in the 1994 Democratic primary.

One of Mr. Kasemeyer's delegates, Baltimore County Del. James E. Malone Jr., who represents District 12A, also is in the group, as is a contingent of city legislators -- state Sen. George W. Della Jr. and Dels. Timothy D. Murphy and Brian K. McHale.

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