Lawmakers ignore Mfume's opposition

Two bills introduced to cut mayoral residency requirement to six months

February 06, 1999|By Ivan Penn and Gerard Shields | Ivan Penn and Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Despite public opposition by NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, state lawmakers introduced bills this week to reduce the residency requirement for Baltimore's mayoral candidates from one year to six months, which would allow the civil rights leader to move to the city and run for office this year.

Lawmakers are pushing Mfume to run in this year's mayoral race, but the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has said he will not.

Mfume lives in Baltimore County and could not run for mayor without an amendment to the city charter. The primary election is seven months away.

Members of the city's General Assembly delegation filed identical bills in the House and the Senate on Wednesday. A hearing on the House version of the bill is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday. No hearing has been scheduled in the Senate. Each bill moves independently of the other and must be adopted by both bodies to become law.

"I don't know that the former congressman is interested; I don't know if his interest is stymied by the current obstacle, but I'm supporting the change," said Sen. George W. Della, one of the bill's co-sponsors. "If that's a barrier that prevents a good candidate from joining the race, then it should probably be removed. I hope it's passed into law."

State senators also introduced a bill that would synchronize city and state elections.

Proponents such as East Baltimore state Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden say the change could save the city $4 million in election costs while doubling voter turnout and candidate interest. Two months ago, the Baltimore City Council rejected similar city legislation, saying that they feared Baltimore races would get buried on a more crowded election ballot.

Baltimore's mayoral race is growing increasingly murky as lawmakers move to draw Mfume into the race.

The sponsors of the bills said they understand that Mfume has a prominent job with a national forum as president of the NAACP, but they said they believe he would be an ideal candidate to lead the city.

Mfume asked lawmakers a week ago to kill the bill. The city delegation refused.

Some lawmakers have said that Mfume indicated he might be interested in running, so they wanted to clear any hurdles he might face.

Pub Date: 2/06/99

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