U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, one of Baltimore's best-known political figures, threw his support to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday, promising to work hard for his re-election in the final days of the hard-fought mayoral race.
Four days after asserting his independence in the close primary contest between Mr. Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, Mr. Mfume came out squarely for the mayor at a rally in West Baltimore.
"I ain't here by default, I'm here by design," the 7th District Democrat told nearly 200 cheering Schmoke supporters. "It's time to do the right thing. We have to work for this victory with everything we can."
Mr. Mfume, who is making a last-minute radio commercial on behalf of the mayor, exhorted the crowd to persuade as many people as possible to vote in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
"Political endorsements mean the most when they come at the beginning or the end of a campaign," Mr. Mfume said afterward, explaining his backing so close to the primary and after saying Mr. Schmoke and Mrs. Clarke were "both friends."
Mrs. Clarke said she did not know why Mr. Mfume abandoned his public stance of "not telling anyone who to vote for" in races other than the council presidency, in which he is supporting Lawrence A. Bell III, his cousin.
"Something must have happened," Mrs. Clarke said, but added she would remain on good terms with the congressman.
Last week, Mr. Mfume and former Rep. Parren J. Mitchell joined Mr. Bell in shaking hands at the crowded intersection of North and Pennsylvania avenues. Mrs. Clarke, the two-term council president, showed up to campaign, having been invited by Mr. Bell.
Calling the Clarke campaign move "a bit disingenuous," Mr. Mfume said yesterday that he showed up Tuesday in support of only Mr. Bell. He maintained Mrs. Clarke is a friend, but he said his endorsement was "not about friendship, it's about