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Mfume First Into Maryland Senate Race

Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume became the first candidate out of the gate in the newly open 2006 Maryland Senate race, announcing he would seek the Democratic nomination this morning.

“It is with great pride and deep humility that I announce to you today my candidacy for the Senate of the United States,” Mfume said during a news conference at the Camden Yards warehouse in Baltimore, according to The Associated Press.

With his early announcement, Mfume, a 56-year-old former House Member, gets a jump on his potential opponents in the Senate race. But he is unlikely to have the field to himself for very long.

After Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) announced Friday that he would not seek a state-record-shattering sixth term next year, five of the state’s six Democratic House Members said they would consider the race. Many are expected to announce that they are forming exploratory committees for a Senate campaign.

But Mfume is a formidable presence in the Democratic field. He spent more than eight years at the helm of the NAACP, the nation’s leading civil rights organization, and also spent nine years in the House and eight years on the Baltimore City Council. His entry into the Senate race will weigh especially heavily on the plans of two black House Members who are considering running: Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings and Albert Wynn.

Cummings succeeded Mfume in Congress in 1996.

The Republican field in the Senate race is not developing as quickly as it is on the Democratic side. National Republicans hope to lure Lt. Gov. Michael Steele into the race. But Steele prefers to run for re-election in 2006 and then run for governor in 2010.

— Josh Kurtz

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