- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Baltimore’s largest group of black ministers said yesterday it will not schedule more forums to include Mayor Martin J. O’Malley and another white politician, who have been excluded from forums leading up to the city’s Sept. 9 primaries.

The decision to exclude the white candidates and offer no further opportunities to make amends was strongly rebuked by one of the state’s leading black politicians.

“Personally, I find that appalling and condemn it, because it is against everything the Democratic Party stands for,” said Democratic Party Chairman Isiah “Ike” Leggett. “This is not the way to conduct elections and inform the public in terms of their choices.”

The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which includes 240 churches, excluded Mr. O’Malley and challenger A. Robert Kaufman from its forum.

The race’s three black candidates, Charles U. Smith, Marvin R. Jones and Andrey Bundley, were invited.

The Rev. Gregory B. Perkins, president of the alliance and pastor of St. Paul Community Baptist Church, defended the decision, saying no political motive was intended.

“We apologize … but time has gotten away from us and we simply don’t have enough time to get all the members and candidates together,” he said.

But the Rev. Doug Wilson, the alliance’s executive secretary, acknowledged yesterday that Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Kaufman, both Democrats, were not invited to a forum on July 31.

Mr. Wilson originally said Tuesday he was unsure who in Mr. O’Malley’s office received the invitation, but said yesterday he did not send e-mails notifying either candidate.

His statements follow Mr. Perkins’ explanation that all the candidates were notified by e-mail.

Mr. Perkins also said Mr. O’Malley has “rebuffed” the alliance, but that members are not overlooking him or any white candidate.

“There were several whites at the first forum so to say that whites were excluded is not true,” he said.

Mr. Perkins thinks the alliance’s endorsement of Mr. O’Malley’s rival, Carl F. Stokes, in the 1999 mayoral race could have caused the rift.

“On three different occasions, I reached out to the mayor,” he said. “And on three occasions, we were rebuffed by Martin O’Malley, and this opens up a wound. He made it very clear that he wanted nothing to do with the alliance … . He was rude in the way that he answered, his whole manner and his attitude.”

The primaryelection will take place next month because city residents voted to move their election to even years to coincide with the state’s general elections.

In a written statement released yesterday, Mr. Perkins also said the alliance has chosen to endorse no candidate in the mayoral race.

Asked to further elaborate, he said, “There is another individual who is running a very strong campaign and he is running [a] grass-roots [campaign]. He is running as a populist; therefore, there is clear choice and the alliance has opted not to make an endorsement.”

Mr. O’Malley responded to the controversy through a campaign spokeswoman.

“The mayor has no ill feelings toward anyone associated with the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance,” the spokeswoman said. “He has a strong working relationship with ministers here in Baltimore on key youth programs and will continue to move forward together with everyone in this city.”

Mr. O’Malley, who has recently been criticized by his opponents for turning down as many as 24 events, has agreed to participate in three candidate forums before the primary election. He has already appeared at an event sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and is scheduled to appear before the League of Women Voters and participate in two public radio station programs.

In 1999, Mr. O’Malley become the city’s first white mayor since 1986, winning 91 percent of the vote in the mayoral race in a city where blacks are 63 percent of the population.

The Rev. Russell Johnson, president of the Baptist Ministers’ Conference and pastor of Browns Memorial Baptist Church, who had said his organization’s July 14 event “was only for black candidates,” did not return a call for comment hand-delivered by the church receptionist.

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