Delegate Mitchell, Councilwoman Dixon say they won't join race for Congress 2 others added to long list seeking to succeed Mfume

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The quick-moving political waters of the 7th District shifted again yesterday, as two possible candidates took themselves out of the running for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Kweisi Mfume.

State Del. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, a first-term delegate from West Baltimore's 44th District and a member of a high-profile Baltimore political family, announced at a news conference that he would not seek Mr. Mfume's seat in the special election March 5.

"I and my family have made the decision that it is best that I focus my energies on the state level," Mr. Mitchell said. "I will not be a candidate for the 7th congressional seat at this time."

Earlier in the day, City Councilwoman Sheila Dixon, from West Baltimore's 4th District, said she was removing her name from consideration.

Mr. Mitchell said he would not endorse any candidate in the special election, later explaining that he believed that throwing support behind one candidate in the wide field would be "very divisive" in West Baltimore politics. "We know all the candidates, and they're all very good people," he said.

Mr. Mitchell said he did not seek the seat and learned that his name was being floated only when he returned from his honeymoon last week.

His great uncle, Parren J. Mitchell, held the 7th District seat for 16 years, after being elected in 1970. Mr. Mfume, who is stepping down in mid-February to head the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was his successor. He won a nine-way Democratic primary in 1986 that included Delegate Mitchell's father, Clarence M. Mitchell III, a former state senator.

The elder Mr. Mitchell, whose father was the great civil rights leader after whom the Baltimore Circuit Courthouse is named, is clearly going to keep his hand in the race -- unlike his son.

The former state senator said yesterday after his son's announcement that he was urging state Sen. Larry Young to run for the 7th District seat.

Mr. Young, from West Baltimore's 44th District, has said he is weighing a bid, but has vacillated on whether he would run.

If Mr. Young does not get in the race -- as few expect him to -- the elder Mr. Mitchell said, he would support state Del. Elijah E. Cummings, a lawyer and the House speaker pro tem -- provided that he give up his law practice, if elected.

Mr. Cummings has said that if he runs and if he wins, he would give up his practice.

When told of that, Mr. Mitchell said, "Well that makes him a very attractive candidate, but my first choice is Larry Young."

Mr. Mitchell said he believed that the congressional job is a full-time job and made specific reference to two of the five ministers who have announced their intentions of running -- the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Arnold W. Howard, pastor of the Enon Baptist Church. Both have said they would remain pastors, if elected.

Meanwhile, yesterday, two more candidates joined the race. The filing deadline is Dec. 26.

Traci K. Miller, 28, a lawyer who resides downtown, said she was making her political debut. She is an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore's Juvenile Courts Division on leave of absence to run for office.

Lynn Sherwood Harris, 38, president of the Sandtown-Winchester Improvement Association in West Baltimore, also has thrown his hat in the ring. He is a deputy clerk in the Baltimore Circuit Court's criminal division.

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