Cummings and Clark for the 7th Special election: Successor to Kweisi Mfume must be able to confront urban problems.

February 18, 1996

THOUGH REDISTRICTING has spread Maryland's 7th Congressional District well into suburban Baltimore County, its core is in those areas of inner-city Baltimore that struggle daily against crime, poor schools and the lack of opportunity to retain some semblance of better days.

This is a historic district. In 1970, it sent to Washington Maryland's first black member of Congress -- Parren J. Mitchell. Kweisi Mfume succeeded Mr. Mitchell in 1986 and easily won re-election five times.

The seat is now open, due to Mr. Mfume's decision to take over the financially struggling National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This means the 7th will get only its third representative in 26 years.

Twenty-seven Democrats and five Republicans are running for the seat. There are many outstanding candidates, including state Sen. Delores G. Kelley, Del. Salima Siler Marriott, Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr. and attorney A. Dwight Pettit. Five members of the clergy are running, including the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel AME Church and a step-brother of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Given the credentials of so many candidates, and not just those mentioned here, selecting one Democrat and one Republican for the March 5 primary was difficult.

In the end, what had to be considered was not so much what each candidate had done but what he or she could do for the 7th District and for Maryland. From that standpoint, it is clear Del. Elijah E. Cummings is well prepared to hit the ground running for his constituents.

A descendant of South Carolina sharecroppers, Mr. Cummings grew up poor in South Baltimore. He went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University and earned a law degree from the University of Maryland.

He's been a delegate 14 years, and now, as speaker pro tempore, is one of the most influential State House players. Mr. Cummings is a powerful and effective advocate for African Americans, championing gun control and playing a key role in banning liquor ads from inner city billboards. Equally important, he is praised for his skill in developing consensus in dTC demographically diverse legislature. Bridge-building is essential in this Congress. What he's learned in Annapolis and what he's learned on the streets of Baltimore make him the best Democrat for the 7th District.

On the GOP ballot, Victor Clark, who always seems to come to the rescue of his party when it is in need of a quality candidate, is superior to the four other Republicans running.

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