Democrat Kweisi Mfume won a special congressional election in Maryland on Tuesday and will replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) for the rest of his term in the state’s 7th district.
Cummings, who chaired the House Oversight Committee, died at 68 in October 2019. His office told news outlets that he died due to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.” Following Cummings’s death, over 30 people—including some two dozen Democrats—announced bids for the seat he had held since 1996.
Mfume defeated Republican Kimberly Klacik to win the seat, with The Associated Press calling the race after 8 p.m. local time. The 71-year-old Democrat had earlier held the seat for five terms from 1987 to 1996, before he left Congress and chaired the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) civil rights group, from 1996 until 2004. The NAACP is based in Baltimore.
Mfume will now serve out the remainder of Cummings’s term, which ends in January. He may run again in the state’s June 2 primary in hopes of winning reelection in November to serve a full term. The primary was originally scheduled for April but was postponed by Gov. Larry Hogan due to the CCP virus.
All voters in the 7th Congressional District were strongly urged to vote by mail due to the pandemic caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus. The Maryland Board of Elections had authorized mail-in ballots and sent out ballots weeks in advance. Three in-person polling stations were still opened on Tuesday for those who were unable to cast a mail ballot, such as those without mailing addresses or voters who require special assistance.
Mfume told supporters after winning the election that many people are “struggling at this hour to fight off the terrible disease of the coronavirus.”
“To them, to their families and to the families of so many others who have lost lives prematurely to this disease, I want all of you to know that from day one, all of my attention, all of my energy and all of my focus in the United States Congress will be on using science, data and common sense to help get our nation through this dark hour in our history,” Mfume said.
Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 4-1 in Maryland’s 7th district, which covers parts of Baltimore and central Maryland. The diverse district includes areas of Baltimore that struggle with poverty and violent crime, and more affluent areas and such landmarks as Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Mfume late Tuesday also spoke about addressing issues such as poor urban areas that have limited access to affordable and nutritious food, a lack of transportation, and the need to modernize school buildings.
“I promise you that as your congressman, I will use every ability that I have to bring about that change,” Mfume said.
The former NAACP chair also supports more robust gun-control measures, including reauthorizing a federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2005. Baltimore had 348 homicides last year—the fifth straight year topping 300—making it the city’s most violent year ever per capita.
Klacik, a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, had campaigned on economic development and helping struggling parts of Baltimore via a federal “opportunity zones” program.
After she was defeated, Klacik wrote on Twitter: “That one time when hard work didn’t pay off. Perhaps one day, District 7 will want a change. Proud of my team & the work we put in.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.