Send Cummings to Washington Mfume's successor: Special election will decide who finishes nine months left in term.

April 13, 1996

THERE HAS BEEN little visible campaigning for the special election Tuesday to determine who finishes the nine months left in the 7th Congressional District term of new NAACP President Kweisi Mfume. The candidates didn't want to spend a lot of money in a contest that is expected to be one-sided. And the public, expecting the same, hasn't shown more concern.

The lack of excitement belies the race's importance. The winner will likely win a full two-year term in November. Baltimore makes up most of the 7th, which also includes part of western Baltimore County. But the election is important to all of Maryland, whose members of Congress must protect state interests.

The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, but even if it weren't, party nominee Elijah E. Cummings would be the favorite in this race. His experience as a leader in the General Assembly and a background growing up in the inner city give him the best chance to mirror Mr. Mfume's success as an urban congressman.

Republican Kenneth Kondner deserves applause for being his party's standard bearer in the 7th District for the fourth time, but his qualifications do not match those of Mr. Cummings.

A descendant of South Carolina sharecroppers, Mr. Cummings grew up poor in South Baltimore. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University and has a law degree from the University of Maryland. The speaker pro tempore has served in the House of Delegates for 14 years. He is one of the most persuasive members of the legislature and could use his negotiating skills effectively in Congress.

Those voters thinking of sitting this one out should keep in mind the historic significance of this election. Only three people have represented the 7th District since it was created in 1952: Samuel Friedel until 1970, when he lost to Parren J. Mitchell, who became Maryland's first African-American member of Congress, and was succeeded in 1986 by Mr. Mfume. He could have easily won a sixth term had he not decided to take over the helm of the NAACP.

Now it's Mr. Cummings' turn. He has the sensitivity, the acumen and the temperament to follow the path blazed by the political heavyweights who preceded him. The Sun endorses Elijah E. Cummings for the 7th Congressional District seat.

Pub Date: 4/13/96

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