Committee will take to the streets to entice Mfume into mayoral race

Petitions to be circulated at Inner Harbor, malls

May 08, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

While most campaigns for Baltimore's municipal elections appear to be moving along quietly -- or not at all -- the effort to draft NAACP President Kweisi Mfume into the mayoral contest continues to build steam this weekend.

Volunteers with the Draft Mfume 2000 Committee plan to hand out bumper stickers and circulate petitions at the Inner Harbor, malls and grocery stores in hopes of gaining supporters.

Mfume is scheduled to meet with the board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People next week in Miami at the organization's quarterly meeting. Mfume said this week that he is talking with family members and the NAACP about whether he will leave the civil rights organization and run for mayor.

He said he will make an announcement about his decision when he returns from the meeting.

"I just think he would be a stunning leader," said Cheryl Benton, campaign manager for the draft committee. "It's rare that the opportunity and the person converge.

"I asked him, `What do you think about this draft?' He said, `A lot of pressure, Benton.' That's what we want to do put so much pressure on him that he'll run."

The 4-week-old draft effort continues to hamper the fund-raising and campaign strategies of other candidates who have joined the mayoral race and those who would like to run.

"It's created a great deal of uncertainty among the other candidates," said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at Western Maryland College. "Mfume is in a very advantageous position. He has a campaign that's proceeding without a candidate, which doesn't happen very often in Baltimore, Maryland or American politics."

Mayoral candidate Carl Stokes, who has filed for the office as a Democrat, is aggressively campaigning. He holds weekly news conferences, has bought radio advertisements and is posting billboards and signs proclaiming: "Carl Stokes for Mayor."

City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, who has not filed for mayor, is posting signs throughout the city, but they don't state his intentions, just the message: "Bell for Baltimore." Few other candidates are pushing their campaigns with fanfare.

Six others besides Stokes have filed to run for mayor. They are Democrats Mary W. Conaway, the city's register of wills; A. Robert Kaufman, a social activist; and community activists William E. Roberts Sr. and Phillip A. Brown Jr. Republican candidates Arthur W. Cuffie Jr. and Roberto Marsili, both neighborhood activists, also have filed for the race.

In the City Council races, two candidates have filed for council president. They are Democrats Frank M. Conaway, city clerk of the courts, and David G. S. Greene, a social activist who is Kaufman's running mate.

As of yesterday, 10 candidates had filed for the 18 council seats, including four in the 1st District: Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., a Democratic incumbent; Kimberly Letke, a Democrat; Michael P. McNamara, a Republican; and Lorenzo Gaztanaga, a Liberal.

In the 2nd District, Republican Brian D. Jones is the only candidate who has filed. Democrat Charles Martin Fitzpatrick has filed in the 3rd District, and Democrat Patrick J. Burns has filed in the 5th District.

The 6th District has three candidates: Democrat Francis J. Smidt Jr. and Republicans Anthony F. Forlenza and Joe Tebo Jr.

Barbara Jackson, chief administrator of the city elections board, said the number of council candi- dates is likely to increase over the next couple of weeks. She said most council candidates file four to six weeks before the July 6 deadline.

The Mfume draft effort appears to be having an impact on the council races. Councilwoman Sheila Dixon said she is planning to run for council president unless Bell backs out of the mayoral contest because of Mfume, in which case she probably would seek re-election to her 4th District council seat.

Benton said many believe Mfume will make his announcement soon because the public is growing weary of waiting. "It's a gut thing," she said. "In any case, we have until July 6 to really convince him. We don't want to give up until then."

Pub Date: 5/08/99

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