@BryanRenbaum
bryan@marylandreporter.com

Sen. Jill Carter, D-Baltimore City, came in third place in last week’s Democratic special congressional primary but she said progressive grassroots support may be enough to put her over the top in her quest to succeed late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

The special congressional general election will be held on Tuesday, April 28. The winner will serve the remainder of Cummings’ term, which expires in January 2021. Carter can not win that election because she lost in the special primary on Feb. 4 to Kweisi Mfume.

She is running in the Democrat primary, also held on April 28; the general election will determine who will take over the seat next January.

“I think there are progressive organizations and grassroots organizations that will embrace our campaign — even beyond those that already have. And we’re just gonna hit the ground running. I think that my numbers naturally go up because of the work that I’ve done over the years in the communities and the recognition that people have within those clusters of grassroots organizers and communities,” Carter told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview on Monday.

Former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, 71, won the Feb. 4 special primary with 43 percent of the vote. Maya Rockeymore Cummings, 49 — Rep. Cummings’ widow, who resigned last December as chair of the Maryland Democratic Party —  won 17 percent of the vote. Carter, 56, won 16 percent of the vote.

Kimberly Klacik, 38, won the Republican primary. She is a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee who runs a nonprofit for women.

The race included 29 other candidates. Many of those candidates have since exited the race.

Mfume has raised about $266,000, according to the most recent quarterly filing submitted to the  Federal Election Commission. Rockeymoore Cummings has raised $208,000. Carter has raised $54,000. Klacik has raised about $49,000. The 7th district is predominantly African American and overwhelmingly Democratic. It includes most of Baltimore City, parts of Baltimore County and the majority of Howard County.

Mfume is Cummings’ predecessor, representing Maryland’s 7th district in Congress from January 1987 to February 1996. He previously served as a member of the Baltimore City Council for eight years. Mfume resigned from Congress to become president of the NAACP. He left that organization in 2004 amid accusations of sexual harassment and nepotism. (He denied any wrongdoing but later admitted that dating a co-worker was a mistake). However, he was widely praised for reversing the NAACP’s financial problems and increasing the membership on college campuses.

Carter, who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, attributed Mfume’s sweeping win in last week’s special election to favor among the Democratic Party establishment.

“He won decisively in a primary that was very much geared toward the person with the highest name recognition and attracted the oldest adults in the voting bloc. But, definitely he’s a formidable opponent…But I believe that the message that we are bringing and the ‘fight for the people’ that our campaign believes is important and is necessary in the Congress — or else I wouldn’t run.

“I just simply think he’s [Mfume] too establishment. He doesn’t have a strong record of accomplishment and we need somebody that is going to give this everything that they have because the times are too serious to have mediocre politicians sitting in seats that really don’t fight and just are there to cozy up to the corporate interests and the Democrat establishment.”

Richard Vatz, a professor of political persuasion at Towson University, said Mfume is likely to win again.

“I would be gobsmacked if Sen. Carter made up a 27% deficit in another election. Even given the weaknesses of polling validity, that sort of lead is considered prohibitive. The general unpopularity of Maya Rockeymoore Cummings will not dissipate, and lingering rumors of Mfume’s unfair treatment of women appears not to hurt his popularity, at least against these subpar opponents.”

Vatz said Klacik is unlikely to be a factor in the race.

“Kimberly Klacik, a Trump supporter, has all the ethical background, arguments and policies on her side, including poor constituent service, but has no chance, one should surmise, to win Cummings’ seat.”

Former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, a Democrat, said that the most of the state’s top officeholders — and all 10 members of its congressional delegation — are male,  and that that should change.

“This is just wrong.”

Glendening said he had hoped Rockeymoore Cummings would break the glass ceiling.

“I thought perhaps Maya would be the person to break through here and it didn’t happen. And I thought that was very, very unfortunate.”

Glendening said most of Maryland’s male elected leaders are doing a good job. However, he said of the dearth of female representation: “You can’t have 51 percent of your state not part of the top 14 positions in the state.”

Glendening said Mfume is likely to win again unless gender representation becomes a major issue in the campaign.

Rockeymoore Cummings’ campaign declined a request from MarylandReporter.com for comment about the upcoming election and neither Mfume’s or Klacik’s campaign responded to requests for comment by the deadline for this story.

Carter, an attorney, has served in the Maryland Senate since 2018. She previously served in the House of Delegates for 17 years.

Cummings died last October. He was a Baltimore icon and served in Congress for more than two decades. At the time of his death, Cummings was chair of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee. The committee was investigating President Donald Trump and his administration.

This report was updated on Feb. 11 to clarify in which upcoming election Sen. Carter is running.