7 District hopefuls pass day in church Candidates on stump 2 days before primary

Campaign 1996

March 04, 1996|By John Rivera and William F. Zorzi Jr. | John Rivera and William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Marilyn McCraven contributed to this article.

The campaign for the 7th Congressional District seat moved yesterday from the streets to the sanctuary as candidates went to church to worship and to drum up support for tomorrow's primary election.

The day began early in churches in Baltimore city and county, included various types of contact with voters and ended with calls to supporters, urging them to vote and reminding them of commitments to staff polling places tomorrow.

Del. Clarence Davis and Traci K. Miller, the city prosecutor who is running in her first election, each attended four services yesterday.

Ms. Miller started before 8 a.m., visiting churches on the Westside -- Concord Baptist, Wayland Baptist, Mount Pisgah Christian Methodist Episcopal and Providence Baptist.

"We were all over the place," Ms. Miller said. "We knew we had to go to a lot of churches because it was the Sunday before the election. The folks who go to church by and large vote."

Mr. Davis began yesterday at Mount Tabor Baptist Church and ended with the evening service at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, both in East Baltimore. Although he spoke at Mount Tabor, Mr. Davis said he had reservations about campaigning in churches.

"I always have had a strong sense of the separation of church and state because politics is somehow so unclean that you somehow do not want to mix Caesar with Jesus," he said. "I simply asked people for their prayers -- not for their votes."

At New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore, the featured speaker was former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who resigned the 7th District seat to take over the presidency of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Mr. Mfume, who has not made an endorsement, did not mention the election to determine his successor in his 30-minute sermon; instead, he focused on the mission and future of the NAACP.

The scene in the vestibule of New Shiloh was similar to that in many of the large African-American congregations in this district, 71 percent of whose residents are black: Representatives of several of the campaigns handed out literature before and after the service.

Although no political plugs were made from the pulpit, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal in West Baltimore and one of the candidates, did lead the New Shiloh congregation in an opening prayer. Then, he rushed back to Bethel, where his stepbrother, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, and representatives of labor organizations who have endorsed him attended the 11 a.m. service.

"We worshiped as a family," Mr. Reid said of the presence of the mayor, who also has endorsed him. "It was as much a family event as a political event."

The Rev. Arnold W. Howard, pastor of Enon Baptist Church in West Baltimore and a candidate, put his campaign on hold yesterday. After preaching on Abraham, "the man who called on God," he briefly stopped by his campaign office before heading for Sunday dinner with his wife and children.

"I was doing what I normally do," Mr. Howard said. "[The campaign] doesn't change the order. Church and family, that's my Sunday."

Del. Elijah E. Cummings attended his home church, New Psalmist Baptist downtown, and then went to the First Apostolic Faith Church in East Baltimore, where the pastor, Bishop Franklin C. Showell, endorsed him.

In the two months he has campaigned, Mr. Cummings said, he has attended services at 27 churches: "In the black community, the church is very significant" because attending the services "allows people to see you, greet you, talk to you after the service."

State Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore County legislator, began the day by attending services at Grace AME Church in Catonsville. Later, she and Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III made a midafternoon foray into Baltimore's Chinatown on Park Avenue to greet voters at the Chinese New Year street celebration.

By nightfall, she had returned to the phones, calling volunteers and supporters.

Attorney A. Dwight Pettit also received a personal endorsement from a minister yesterday -- the Rev. Melvin B. Tuggle II of East Baltimore's Garden of Prayer Baptist Church.

"Tell your cousins tell your neighbors that Dwight Pettit was here," Mr. Tuggle said, pointing to the candidate and his wife, Barbara.

Del. Salima Siler Marriott attended the 8 a.m. service at Mount Lebanon Baptist Church and went on the air afterward with the pastor, the Rev. Olin P. Moyd, who has a radio show.

Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr. spent the day going door to door in the Woodmoor area of Baltimore County and in Mount Vernon, Hampden and Ednor Gardens in the city.

"I've got to hustle for votes, and this is the style I've always used," Mr. Montague said. "Of course, it's a little different this time -- because it's like zero degrees out there."

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