- The Washington Times - Monday, March 14, 2005

BALTIMORE — Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume yesterday announced he will run for the U.S. Senate next year.

“It is with great pride and deep humility that I announce to you today my candidacy for the Senate of the United States,” Mr. Mfume said at a press conference.

“I can’t be bought. I won’t be intimidated. I don’t know how to quit,” he said as his supporters applauded.

Mr. Mfume, who was a five-term U.S. congressman before becoming president of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, issued the statement after incumbent Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes announced he will not run for re-election.

“This is step one in what will be an embarrassment of wealth for the Democratic Party in 2006,” said Derek Walker, spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party.

Mr. Sarbanes, 72, announced Friday that he will not seek a sixth term, noting he would be 80 by the time that term ended in 2012.

“It was just the right time,” Mr. Sarbanes said. “We think we’ve served long and well and honorably, and we’re very comfortable with this decision.”

Mr. Mfume said he plans to speak with Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, one of three Maryland Democratic congressmen who have not ruled out running for the seat.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen told the Associated Press he is putting together an exploratory committee to examine his prospects, and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin also has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Rep. Albert R. Wynn officially bowed out of the race, making his announcement just two hours after Mr. Mfume’s press conference yesterday.

Meanwhile, Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan have said they are concentrating on next year’s Democratic primary for governor.

No Republicans have said they are considering seeking the seat.

Mr. Mfume was a congressman before he left the House in 1996 after five terms to become president of the NAACP. Many observers say he repaired the historic civil rights group during his nine-year tenure.

When he became head of the NAACP, the group was in turmoil — rocked by an embarrassing sex scandal involving its previous chief, bitter internal strife and a crippling $3.2 million deficit. Mr. Mfume brought credibility and stability, working with former Chairwoman Myrlie Evers-Williams and current Chairman Julian Bond to institute corporate-style management practices.

When Mr. Mfume left, the group had enjoyed a budget surplus for eight consecutive years and an increasing endowment fund. Membership was a half-million spread throughout 48 states.

Mr. Mfume is a Baltimore native whose adopted West African name translates to “conquering son of kings.”

He began his career as a dashiki-clad radio talk-show host and political activist in the 1970s.

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