And what that may mean for the rest of the field of candidates?
Written By: Victoria Kent
The former Baltimore City Councilman, who became the 7th district congressman the year Schaefer became Governor, also served as President and CEO of the civil rights organization the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for nearly a decade. He won his first election for council in 1978 by a mere three votes, fought diligently against negative rumors and background history of a rough upbringing to succeed the ever popular Parren J. Mitchell in Congress, and has since become an American icon to those in the civil rights struggle.
As campaign 2011 has barely reared its ugly head into the who’s who of confirmed Mayoral candidates, many have speculated that Mr. Mfume may in fact have finally take on that role as candidate for Baltimore’s top spot. As he has recently been speculated to run in years past, including that highly criticized 1999 race which saw Martin O’Malley benefit from the split of an African American electorate; Kweisi has yet to officially rule out the possibility of this being the year. He has told some that he was out, yet looking to play a big role in this very important election cycle, while others have said he has seriously been giving the possibility a lot of thought as of late, leaving Baltimore’s top of the ticket seasonably questionable.
However, many are still questioning if he can win despite the fact that he has been absent the political scene in Baltimore for quiet some time. Yet those who question his campaigning prowess and techniques may be in for a rude awakening? “He’s a proven leader who has only lost one campaign to date, one he should have won actually and that was in 2006, when he ran for Maryland’s United States Senate seat,” said political insider Hassan Giordano. “In fact, I know of quiet a few Baltimore political and campaign leaders that would drop everything to jump in and assist Kweisi in his bid for Mayor, if he so chooses to do so this time around?”
Many still remember the 1999 campaign which saw a very questionable Mfume for Mayor discovery process, in which Kweisi was said to be running in a crowded field of black candidates, including his cousin Lawrence Bell. Then City Council President Bell was looked at from the on-set as the front-runner, while former councilman Carl Stokes jumped in to the race which made it interesting. However, as retiring Mayor Kurt Schmoke was set to run again if the rumored Schaefer officially filed for the office, which he did not, he eventually gave his blessing to Bell. Yet certain black politicians such as then councilwoman and current Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake chose to wage their bet on the crime focused Northeast Councilman Martin O’Malley. Some speculate that it was O’Malley who got Mfume to play with the notion of running, thereby confusing some blacks as to who to support, thereby leaving an unorganized batch of black candidates, in which he eventually surpassed in quest for the position.
Now, we’ve seen Mr. Mfume again posture his position for a Mayoral run in the last election of 2007, yet bowed out early based on his allegiance to then Mayor Sheila Dixon. However, call it déjà vu, or just pure politics, now we see Stokes running again for Mayor and his confidant and friend Mfume exploring such a run? Many believe that the current field of candidates have absolutely no chance at beating the incumbent Rawlings-Blake, yet think Mfume could make the best possible candidate to beat the O’Malley backed Mayor. Yet others assume he would just be a spoiler, crowding a field of blacks once again to see another O’Malley like victory happen from someone such as filed Mayoral candidate, Jody Landers. The question remains: who is right?
“First of all, Jody Landers is no Martin O’Malley,” says Mr. Giordano, owner and operator of GCOMM Media Co. “The situation and crowd of candidates were vastly different in ‘99, than they are over a decade later. It is true that you could see another possible crowded field of blacks, however I don’t see Mr. Landers having a big enough base to beat out Kweisi, or Mayor Rawlings-Blake, even in a divided black electorate.” Yet others aren’t as convinced. Facebook politics sees people begging for a singular black candidate to take on the Mayor, thereby ensuring for a black Mayor, however even Hassan questions that scenario. “Though we have a majority black city, what makes a black more qualified to run this city than a white? It should not be as much about race, as it is about who is best qualified to actually bring pride back to our city, and begin to make education our priority rather than crime and so-called safety. Whoever can ensure the voters, or at least my family and I that that’s what they’ll be about, then they are the ones that certainly has out vote, and possibly my services throughout the campaign.”
Yet with a crowded Mayoral field expected, such as filed candidates Landers and Otis Rolley, along with Frank Conaway Sr, Senator Catherine Pugh, Councilman Carl Stokes and the incumbent Mayor Rawlings-Blake, can the long absent Mfume make a splash in the field of well known candidates? “Campaigns make, or break, candidates; not political analysts, polls or other political talking heads. We shall see a very heated exchange between whoever is in the race, therefore whoever seriously makes the case for Mayor and can get that message out to the majority of the electorate will be victorious on Election Day,” says Giordano. Whoever that may be, Kweisi Mfume or not, this City certainly needs an “extreme makeover”!
Victoria Kent is an English Major graduate of Loyola University and currently seeking her Masters at Towson University. She is a Senior Associate for GCOMM Media Co. and author who can be reached at email@example.com.