Mr. Nice Guy keeps his options open

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September 15, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

The top two Democrats in the U.S. Senate race were gentlemanly to the point of boring. Now one of them is gentlemanly to the point of startling. As in, "Ben's a friend" and "I think Mike Steele's a great guy." As in, "I wish them both well." That's what Kweisi Mfume told me yesterday, when he also mentioned that he wasn't conceding the race to Ben Cardin. He wouldn't say who - if anyone - he'd endorse if he still falls short after all the ballots are counted.

"I'm going to have something to say about that," was his only answer.

Didn't Mfume concede and give Cardin the nod on election night, when he said, "He'll be a damn good senator?"

"I went out of my way to be complimentary of Ben that evening," Mfume said. "[But] we're still looking for votes. We're still waiting for the provisional ballots to be counted."

Is Mfume pulling an Al Gore, conceding and then unconceding? Or maybe a Bill Clinton, parsing his words in ways that the average person - and headline writer - might miss? (Who'd think The Sun was jumping the gun when it introduced the "damn good" quote yesterday with this subheadline: "Mfume said Cardin has his support"? But just because Mfume thinks Cardin will be a good senator doesn't rule out the possibility that he thinks Steele would be a good one, too.)

Mfume said he'd been in contact with Steele - the guy he still hopes to face in November; and failing that, the guy he seems to be flirting with endorsing.

"I called him yesterday to congratulate him on his victory and to indicate to him that ... it's going to be a crazy seven weeks ahead," Mfume said. "So get ready for it."

His monuments are all around us

William Donald Schaefer was asked to name his greatest accomplishment. The Inner Harbor? Camden Yards? His answer isn't in any tour books. It's a public housing high-rise named Monument East, in a part of town known as Middle East.

"I keep telling the story of the little black lady on Gay Street who looked up into Mr. [Robert] Embry's eyes as he was gonna dedicate public housing, and she said, `Mr. Embry, this is as close to heaven as I'll get till I get there.' ... I've never forgotten that."

A look through The Sun's yellowed clips turned up a story from April 1976, complete with a photo and quotation from one Sara S. Causion, 74, a retired domestic worker and prospective tenant.

"It's just beautiful," Causion was quoted saying. "I wouldn't live no where else - 'cept tryin' to get a seat in heaven. But this is my first preference on earth."

Did Causion get to move in? And if so, was it heaven? No telling. She moved on to the real deal in 1986. She was 84.

"It's still a nice place to live," tenant council president Myron Alston told me. There have been some problems in recent years, since the building was opened to younger people with disabilities, a definition that includes people addicted to drugs.

"Some people are leery of it," he said. "We're learning how to deal with it."

Didn't he already have opinions on everything?

It takes more than a third-place finish in one race and a reputedly closed filing window in another to dash Schaefer's political hopes.

The day after losing the comptroller's race, Schaefer said he might run for mayor of Ocean City. Then came the news that candidates must be residents of the city for four months prior to the filing deadline, which is Tuesday. Schaefer has had a place in Ocean City for years, but he votes in Baltimore. And voting, as The Sun's Chris Guy reported, is one factor that determines residency. So that's it for Schaefer's Ocean City aspirations, right?

Not so fast, says Schaefer spokesman Mike Golden.

The boss told Golden yesterday: "I want to get an opinion from the attorney general."

State of the art, but not voter-friendly

Among the voters tripped up by voting-machine snafus Tuesday: Kristen Cox. Robert Ehrlich's running mate and disabilities secretary is legally blind, and the "audio ballot" wasn't working when she tried to vote at Rodgers Forge Elementary School. "After about 20 minutes of the poll worker trying to make the machine work properly, she relied on her son, Tanner, who Chris said is a good reader," Ehrlich campaign spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said. "This is a system that was touted by the state board of elections for its non-visual access."

Connect the dots

The question on everybody's minds in the aftermath of Tuesday's election: What's next for Robert Kaufman? Teaching a Baltimore Free University class, a no-credit course for adults. Title: "The Class Struggle Road to Socialism." ... Kaufman spent $2,000 on his U.S. Senate campaign and got 3,501 votes. That works out to about 57 cents per vote. Compare that to Josh Rales, who blew about $202 on each vote. Maybe the millionaire could learn something about money from the Socialist. ... O'Malley's March plays tonight at an upstart Irish festival in Canton. Has Martin O'Malley been coaxed out of retirement? His campaign said he plans to stop by the festival, but it's "unclear" whether he will play with the band.

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