The contest for the House seat of the late Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who died in October 2019, has been overcrowded since late last year. With a slate of 24 Democrats and eight Republicans, it was clear that the position representing the 7th District, comprising Baltimore City, some sections of Baltimore County, and the majority of Howard County, was hotly coveted by candidates from both sides of the aisle.
The winner of the Feb. 4 special election to fill Cummings’ seat for the remainder of the term would most likely be chosen for a fresh full term in November.
Baltimore’s residents received national attention in July 2019 when President Donald Trump pointed out the dismal conditions in which people in Cummings’ district lived. Many progressives lashed out at the president for his remarks, but others seized the opportunity to question the city’s government, which had done little to address the issues plaguing the community.
What Will This Election Mean?
In a low-turnout election, Kweisi Mfume, who represented the 7th District until Cummings took over the seat in 1996, won. Mfume served as the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1996 to 2004.
Mfume is well-loved in Baltimore. Even after he vacated his House seat to run the NAACP, he was admired. In fact, residents urged him to run for mayor in 1999, but he refused. Now, at 71, he will reclaim his seat in the House of Representatives.
After Mfume finishes Cummings’ term, he will face a Republican challenger, journalist Kimberly Klacik, later this year.
Klacik garnered national attention in 2019 when she published videos and pictures showing the deplorable conditions in which many Baltimore residents live. Later, she sought the GOP nomination for the district, but if history is a guide, she has an uphill battle.
Where Will This Go Next?
Baltimore has been a Democratic stronghold for decades. Despite the lack of progress in cleaning up deplorable conditions, residents have continually elected left-leaning candidates. On the other hand, the Republican Party has not made a genuine effort to reach voters in districts represented by the likes of Mfume and Cummings.
This year is not likely to bring real change: The GOP has not yet embraced a more inclusive strategy, and the Democrats know that voters have snubbed the opposition party for generations. Perhaps if more conservatives like activist Scott Presler, who headed a corps of volunteers to remove trash from degraded Baltimore neighborhoods, show up to help in communities such as these, GOP candidates may find a way to compete in areas in which Democrats enjoy unwavering support.
Read more from Jeff Charles.