A group of lawmakers is preparing to introduce legislation in the General Assembly that would change the residency requirement for mayoral candidates in Baltimore as part of an effort to induce NAACP President Kweisi Mfume to enter the race this year.
Mfume, who has owned a home in Catonsville in Baltimore County since January 1995, appears not to meet the legal requirement that a mayoral candidate "be a resident of the city" for one year before the November election.
While Mfume has said he will not be a candidate, the legislation being prepared would undo a key obstacle, should he change his mind, said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat involved in drafting the legislation.
"I suspect many of my colleagues who believe he would be a great mayor will be looking at this legislation to address the residency problem," Rawlings said.
Mfume announced last month that he would not run for mayor and said yesterday that nothing has changed since then.
"I know nothing of it at all, and I doubt seriously if it's aimed in any way at myself," Mfume said. "No one's bothered to consult me about it; nothing has changed."
Mfume said last month he wanted to continue his work as head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation's best-known civil rights organization.
As for meeting the residency requirement, Mfume had said he recently sold a city house bequeathed to him by his aunt and is buying another piece of property in the city.
Rawlings and other Baltimore legislators are hopeful that Mfume will reconsider.
Lawmakers have asked the attorney general's office for legal advice in drafting legislation to change the residency requirement.
The bill would reduce the residency requirement from 12 to six months before the Nov. 2 general election, lawmakers said.
As he works to clear the way for Mfume to run, Rawlings remains a possible candidate. Rawlings, the influential chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he will make his decision before the General Assembly reconvenes for its annual 90-day session Wednesday.
Many political observers rate Mfume as a heavy favorite should he enter the race to succeed Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who is not seeking a fourth four-year term.
Without Mfume, the race appears to be wide open, with at least seven city and state officials either running or considered possible candidates.
Sun staff writer Erin Texeira contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 1/07/99