Mfume concedes Senate race to Cardin

September 16, 2006|By Jennifer Skalka and Matthew Hay Brown | Jennifer Skalka and Matthew Hay Brown,Sun reporters

Democrat Kweisi Mfume formally conceded to U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin yesterday, saying he did not think he could gain enough votes with the counting of absentee and provisional ballots to overtake his rival in the race for U.S. Senate.

In a written statement issued by his campaign three days after the primary election, Mfume said he would support Cardin, the 10-term congressman, in the general election against Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele. Mfume phoned Cardin at noon yesterday to congratulate him, according to a campaign spokesman.

"Ben and I gave this race our best," said Mfume, a former Baltimore congressman and chairman of the NAACP. "However there can only be one nominee from our party, and he is it. He's a great public servant, and I have absolutely no doubt that he is going to make a terrific United States Senator. He has my full support."

Approximately 18,500 votes separate Cardin and Mfume -- with about 26,000 Democratic absentee votes and an unspecified number of provisional ballots outstanding.

Mfume had previously said he would wait for a final count before conceding. Steve Marinoff, an Mfume campaign spokesman, said Mfume felt compelled to speak after a spokesman for Steele said the lieutenant governor would not debate Cardin until he is certified as the party's nominee.

Steele "seemed to imply that we were being dissed or people were trying to force him to do something he didn't want to do," Marinoff said. "Nobody was trying to force Kweisi Mfume out of the race. He basically felt that what he said on election night was a provisional concession."

The support of Mfume, who has also headed the Congressional Black Caucus, could be crucial in a race that may turn in part on black voters. Polls show that some African-Americans, traditionally a Democratic bloc, may migrate to Steele, a black Republican.

Speaking to supporters at a Democratic rally in Annapolis yesterday, Cardin praised Mfume for "running a great race," and said again that they shared the same vision for America.

"He ran his campaign to make sure that every person in this country has the great opportunities of America, and I'm carrying that message to the general election," Cardin said.

After the rally, Cardin said that he had spoken with Mfume about joining him on the stump, but declined to share details.

"I am confident that we'll be together during the campaign," he said.

Cardin said he had no problem with the time it took Mfume to concede the election.

"We shared a vision that every vote should be counted," he said. "It was a mess the way the Board of Elections tabulated the results, and, I think, inexcusable the manner in which this election was conducted. ... It was very difficult for us to get the numbers we needed."

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