A group of community leaders rooted in Baltimore's black political power structure announced yesterday that eight of the 32 candidates in the 7th District race meet its criteria for the area's next representative to Congress.
Marylanders Organized for Responsibility and Equity (MORE) recommended the eight candidates -- all Democrats who include four legislators and two ministers -- based on a closed meeting with some of the candidates, a public forum and "blind" responses to a lengthy questionnaire.
MORE Chairman Charles G. Tildon Jr., retired president of the Baltimore City Community College, stressed that the list developed by the group was not an endorsement, but "a list of what we consider the best-qualified" candidates in the field, based on a profile of the ideal candidate.
"The importance of this seat requires that the voters choose the best candidate available," Mr. Tildon said. "We developed a process to assist the voters in reaching a conclusion."
Mr. Tildon said MORE would not be backing any of the candidates with money or printing its list of recommendations to circulate in the community. He called the list of recommendations "an extensive educational process designed to provide the constituents with information about the candidates" in the March 5 primary.
The one surprise in the group's recommendations was political unknown Traci K. Miller, 28, a city prosecutor on leave to run for office.
Ms. Miller's inclusion on the list appears to support the talk among the city's political hierarchy that she is someone to watch -- if not in this race, then in the future. She seems to have impressed the political establishment with her persistence and energy and is mentioned among the credible candidates.
MORE's other choices included four of the six elected officials running for the 7th District seat being vacated by Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who is stepping down to head the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The elected officials are: Del. Elijah E. Cummings, the House speaker pro-tem from West Baltimore; state Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore County legislator whose district straddles the city line; Del. Salima Siler Marriott of West Baltimore; and Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr. of Northeast Baltimore.
Del. Clarence "Tiger" Davis of East Baltimore and Baltimore Register of Wills Mary W. Conaway were not on the list.
The two ministers on the list are the Rev. Arnold W. Howard, pastor of the Enon Baptist Church in West Baltimore and head of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in West Baltimore and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's stepbrother.
A. Dwight Pettit, a West Baltimore lawyer who ran for the 7th District seat against Mr. Mfume in 1986, also was selected by the group.
Mr. Pettit was endorsed by a member of the group last month, Samuel T. Daniels, grand master of Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons of Maryland, where MORE's meetings have been and where the announcement was made yesterday.
However, Mr. Daniels said at the time that he was acting as an individual and not as a member of MORE or as the grand master.
Mr. Tildon said members of the group and organizations affiliated with MORE "may endorse candidates as they wish."