Each day this week, an article on some of the 32 candidates competing in the March 5 primary election for the seat vacated by Kweisi Mfume in the 7th Congressional District will appear on this page. Today's article is on the minister candidates. Tomorrow: The Officeholders.
Doug Wilson, president of a community association called Pastors in Unity for Park Heights, will not say which of the 32 candidates he will vote for next Tuesday in the 7th District race for Congress. But, he says, it will not be a candidate who works to meet only constituents' physical needs.
It will be one of four ministers -- all Democrats -- in the race, he said, because they have worked for years to meet people's spiritual needs.
"There is a real, deep feeling of distrust for government," said Mr. Wilson. "With ministers in the government, people may regain an attitude of respect for politicians."
"We've tried everything else. We've tried career politicians. We've tried businessmen. Now we should try God."
The ministers running for the seat vacated by Kweisi Mfume include: the Rev. Arnold W. Howard of Enon Baptist Church; the Rev. Frank M. Reid III of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church; the Rev. Medgar Reid, of Reid Memorial Community Church; and Bishop Theodore M. Williams Jr. of Mount Sinai Temple.
(Mary Conaway, another candidate for the seat, also is an ordained minister but is on leave from her church while serving as the Baltimore City Register of Wills.)
Mr. Howard, Frank Reid and Mr. Williams are running aggressive campaigns. They attend most community candidate forums, knock on doors and stand on street corners to wave at drivers.
Medgar Reid, a chaplain at University of Maryland Medical Center, has attended none of the forums and has done little campaigning.
However, in speaking to small groups of friends, colleagues and members of his congregation, he has promised to push for greater funding for AIDS and cancer research, to insure federal student loan programs and to create summer jobs programs for youths.
"I have worked with many politicians over the years to help people," Mr. Reid said in an interview. "So getting into politics is simply an extension of my community work."
The foundation of Frank Reid's highly visible campaign is his 10,000-member congregation, one that has been credited with winning the city comptroller's seat for Joan Pratt and a City Council seat for Sheila Dixon. Many members of the church, located in the 1300 block of Druid Hill Ave., work as volunteers for their pastor.
Dr. Reid, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, also appears weekly on national television.
As he boarded the subway yesterday at the Mondawmin Mall station, most riders smiled and called out his name as if the burly, bearded minister had lived next door to them for years.
"My daughter called me last night and asked me if I saw you on TV last week," said one woman, as she shook Dr. Reid's hand. "I told her, 'Yes and he sure lifted me.' "
Another rider said, "My mother has pictures of you and your daughters in her living room."
Fighting the GOP
Dr. Reid promises to stand strong against Republicans in Congress who are pushing for cuts he feels will hurt the poor and ultimately the middle class.
At a forum organized last week by the Baltimore County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he pointed out that all of the Democratic candidates have similar opinions about issues such as welfare reform, increases in minimum wage, improvements in public housing and gun control. What sets him apart is that he will be able to inspire others and build coalitions.
"It is warfare on the Hill," Dr. Reid said of Congress. "There is great hostility toward the types of legislation that we would like to see passed in Congress. And what we need is the leadership that involves people and inspires people so that we can get them involved and win the programs we are seeking."
Support of other ministers
Mr. Howard, 45, a former Air Force navigator, has the support of most other church leaders in the district.
The father of four has been endorsed by the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, a coalition of about 300 ministers across Baltimore; by the Baptist Ministers Conference; the United Missionary Baptist Convention of Maryland; and the Maryland Baptist Convention.
Last week, several ministers campaigned with Mr. Howard in Rosemont, a crime-ridden neighborhood in West Baltimore. They climbed on residents' stoops and asked for support in the primary election.
"I think Pastor Howard has a very special place. He is a young man with a lot of vitality and looks at those things that really need the attention of not just the elected officials, but of the community," said the Rev. Choyce G. Hall, pastor of St. John's Evangelical Church. "Howard is the right man at the right time."
"He is a man of the people," said the Rev. Willie Ray, founder of the Save Another Youth Committee. "He's been with us since we first started."
Mr. Howard, who holds graduate degrees from Central Michigan University and Howard University, participated in BUILD's effort to construct 300 homes for poor families in the community of Sandtown-Winchester. He was co-chairman of BUILD when the group won the passage of legislation that guaranteed a "prevailing wage" of $6.10 per hour for service workers employed by city contractors.
Fair wages and affordable housing are two of the main issues Mr. Howard discusses when campaigning.
He promises to propose legislation that would provide technical assistance to small business and that would create more high-tech job training programs for high school graduates.
"In the kind of society we live in, if you don't have any money you can't do anything," he said. "Jobs provide you with housing, health care, everything. So without fair wages people are not going to be able to survive. I want to be the voice for people who are not heard."
Because his church has only 100 members, Mr. Williams is campaigning to win the votes of the 7,000 employees at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he has worked for 20 years and is now a manager in the radiology department.
Mr. Williams, 48, a graduate of the University of Baltimore and the Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Radiology Technology, stood one morning last week outside the hospital, greeting employees as they entered. Later he met in a student lounge with a small group of medical students during a study break.
At the heart of Mr. Williams' campaign is the issue of health care for the poor. In almost every one of his speeches he promises that as a congressman he would protect urban hospitals from cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. And, he says, he will push for legislation to provide urban hospitals with tax incentives.
"Urban-based hospitals provide most of the care to the poor, indigent and homeless," he said. "They should be protected."
Speaking to the medical students, he promised to propose legislation that would relieve them from the burden of repaying ,, up to 50 percent of their student loans if they work at least two years in an urban hospital.
Mr. Williams has said that if elected to Congress, he will give up his position as pastor at his Randallstown church.
"The district needs a full-time Congress person," he said. "It would be hard to preach at a funeral at 10 a.m. and then get to Washington in time to vote on legislation."
Mr. Howard said that if elected he would make regular appearances at his church, but he would appoint a minister to handle the day-to-day responsibilities.
Frank Reid said if elected he would not give up any of his pastoral duties at Bethel.
Speaking to a member of his congregation at the Mondawmin subway station, he said, "I will not be able to travel so much because I'll have to be in Washington to vote on legislation so y'all will see me more of me if I'm elected than you do now."