Baltimore – Kweisi Mfume has won the Democratic special primary in Maryland for the congressional seat that was held by the late Elijah Cummings. The former NAACP leader prevailed in a crowded primary with 23 other candidates Tuesday.

Mfume is trying to regain the seat he held for five terms. He stepped down from the office in 1996 to lead the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights group. Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 4 to 1 in the district that includes a significant portion of Baltimore, as well as Baltimore and Howard counties. Twenty-four Democrats and eight Republicans are on the ballot for the 7th Congressional District primary.

If he wins in a special general election on April 28, he will serve out the rest of Cummings’ term. Mfume would have to stand for election again in November to win a full two-year term.

Maryland voters in the Baltimore area are deciding in a crowded special primary Tuesday who will be their parties’ nominees to fill the rest of Cummings’ term in Congress.

Clarksville resident Laura Shovan said she narrowed down the field by looking closely at the candidates who have previous legislative experience. She declined to say who she ultimately picked, but said she hopes voters will turn out.

“I’m hopeful people are going to feel motivated because Elijah Cummings was such an important part of our community,” Shovan, 50, said outside a polling site in Highland, where people trickled in during the morning. “It’s not just the seat. It’s that it was Elijah Cummings’ seat.”

In the Democratic primary, a candidate who previously held the seat has been campaigning on his experience. Kweisi Mfume, a former NAACP president, was the district’s congressman for five terms between 1987 and 1996.

“We remind people as much as we can that in this case I’m proven, tested and ready to go to work on Day 1,” the 71-year-old recently told The Associated Press.

Several state legislators who live in the district are running, as is Cummings’ widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a former chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party. The district includes a large portion of Baltimore, as well as parts of the suburbs in Baltimore and Howard counties.

State Sen. Jill Carter, whose district includes west Baltimore, portrays herself as the more progressive candidate. The 55-year-old described the primary as “very much a tug of war with a lot of the old guard.”

“I’m the new guard,” Carter said. “I think it speaks for itself, because my campaign drew a lot of very young people, and I’m not young, so my ideals mesh with their ideals.”

Other Democrats include Del. Talmadge Branch, an east Baltimore state legislator, and Del. Terri Hill, whose district starts at Baltimore’s southwestern border and runs through parts of Baltimore and Howard counties. Del. Jay Jalisi, whose district is northwest of the city in Baltimore County, also is running.

For Republicans, candidate Kimberly Klacik has received attention after her social media posts showing trash in Baltimore prompted President Donald Trump to tweet that the district is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”

Liz Matory, who was the 2018 GOP nominee in a neighboring congressional district, also is running for the seat. Other Republican candidates are Christopher Anderson, James Arnold, Ray Bly, Brian Brown, William Newton and Hawkins.

The winners will run in a special general election on April 28 to serve the rest of Cummings’ term through Jan. 3, 2021. Cummings, who won 12 terms in Congress, died in October. Whoever wins the special election will have to stand for reelection in November to keep the seat.

Highland resident Joe Comberiate said the candidates’ position on abortion is important to him. He voted for Hawkins, one of the Republicans who opposes it.

Comberiate said he believes it’s difficult for his views to be represented in Congress because of the way districts have been gerrymandered, and in this district, Baltimore’s challenges tend to get most of the attention.

“I think it’s just important for people to vote because if you don’t vote, you’re never going to be represented in the way you’d like, even if you think your vote might not make a difference,” said Comberiate, 38.

Baltimore resident Kyle Baylor, 24, said he didn’t focus on the candidates’ positions so much as who showed passion during the campaign and will continue the late congressman’s efforts.

“Those are big shoes to fill,” said Baylor, who voted for former Cummings aide Harry Spikes. “(Spikes) is so passionate about the future of the next generation.”

Joi Chapman of Baltimore found the large number of candidates difficult to filter. She voted for Rockeymoore Cummings because she said she believes she is the most familiar with the late congressman’s views and policies.

“Because it’s not a big election, a lot of people are not going to drive out to vote,” Chapman, 31, said outside a polling site at a school. “We keep complaining about so many Republicans. If you want to see change, you’ve got to vote.”

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