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Mfume Jumps In for Sarbanes's Seat

Those applauding his candidacy yesterday included black ministers in Maryland and national civil rights leader Jesse L. Jackson. "He will be able to pull together labor, people of color and whites hoping for the American dream," Jackson said.

Analysts said Mfume's prospects for prevailing in the primary are greatest if no other black candidate enters the race and several white contenders join the field. African American voters typically make up about 30 percent of the state's Democratic primary electorate.

Kweisi Mfume, former member of Congress and former NAACP president, looks out from backstage before announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. (Steve Ruark -- AP)

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"The more white Democrats enter the race, the better it is for Mfume," said Thomas Schaller, a political science professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Wynn's decision not to run stands to help other black candidates in the emerging field, as they can target his majority-black district for support. Wynn's absence also leaves Van Hollen of Montgomery County as the only potential Democratic candidate in Congress from the vote-rich Washington suburbs.

Other potential candidates are eagerly awaiting a decision from Cummings. The liberal west Baltimore lawmaker, who succeeded Mfume in Congress in 1996, is the immediate past chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. The other Democratic members of Congress still looking at the Senate race are white.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, who is black, is also looking at the race.

Talk of possible Republican candidates has been far more muted since Sarbanes's announcement Friday, with most speculation focusing on Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who has not signaled his intentions.

Carol Hirschburg, a prominent Republican consultant, said yesterday that Steele would be wise to consider the Senate race. "It's one of those moments where if you take a chance, it might pay off," she said.

Staff writer Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.

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