Hours before voters cast ballots in the special general congressional election to fill the remainder of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ term,-former Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) praised Gov. Larry Hogan for making sure the election went ahead on its scheduled date with a vote-by-mail system to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The election is on Tuesday and Mfume will face Republican Kimberly Klacik.
“Given the health crisis we are in and have been under, I believe the governor did the correct thing in making sure that this election took place and that it took place by mail and ballot and that it gave an option to people who for whatever circumstance might need a walk-in facility. So, the governor’s decision, in my opinion, was absolutely the correct thing to do,” Mfume told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview on Monday.
“Now, we’ve never done it before so it required a rather huge learning curve, both in terms of the Board of Elections, but also in terms of candidates. And, so, all things considered, we’re just about at the end of that process and I would hope to think that this at least serves as a valid precursor for the next election in the state of Maryland.”
Last month Hogan issued a proclamation to postpone the state’s primary election from April 28 to June 2. But the order did not apply to the special general election for the 7th congressional district in which Mfume and Klacik are both running. That election was given permission to proceed under the condition that the Board of Elections agreed to implement a vote-by-mail system. Earlier this month Hogan issued a proclamation that ratifies a decision by the Board to hold the June primary election by mail but to allow in-person voting for those who are unable to vote by mail. The winner of the special general election will serve until January 2021. That person must win the June primary election and the November general election in order to win a term in their own right.
Mfume, 71, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from January 1987 to February 1996, when he resigned to become president of the NAACP. Mfume served in that position until 2004, when he resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment and nepotism — charges he has steadfastly denied although he did admit to using poor judgment by having a relationship with a NAACP staffer. The Baltimore native ran for U.S. Senate in 2006 but lost the primary election to now-Sen. Ben Cardin.
Mfume beat 23 other Democratic candidates in the Feb. 4 primary, including Cummings’ widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.
Klacik, 38, is a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee who runs the nonprofit Potential Me, which helps disadvantaged women transition into a career. She beat eight Republicans after gaining fame for posting videos on social media last year showing trash-strewn streets in West Baltimore. The Middle River resident subsequently appeared on Fox News, then President Donald Trump blasted Elijah Cummings — calling Baltimore a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
Klacik said she is somewhat “skeptical” about the efficacy of the vote-by-mail system.
“I’m a little skeptical that this will go off without a hitch. We’ve received many messages from many individuals in district seven that have not received their ballots. We have asked them to reach out to the Maryland State Board of Elections. As far as we know they are emailing people ballots so they can actually drop them in the mailbox or drop them at a drop-off bin at one of the three locations tomorrow.”
But Klacik, like Mfume, said she agrees with Hogan’s vote-by-mail decision.
“Obviously this is the best idea considering the pandemic. We don’t want people at the polls possibly getting infected. So I totally understand it.”
The district includes most of Baltimore City, parts of Baltimore County and the majority of Howard County. It is majority African American and overwhelmingly Democratic. A Republican has never held the seat. Still, Klacik said she believes she has a shot at winning the election.
“Maryland picked a Republican governor. I think everybody’s loving the job and how he’s handling the pandemic. And I think as Republicans we can do a good job and we should give all parties a fair shot.”
Mfume has raised almost $458,000 according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings. Klacik has raised $193,000, according to the FEC.
Richard Vatz, a professor of political persuasion at Towson University, said Klacik is unlikely to win the election.
“Klacik is a young woman on the rise in Republican ranks, but given the tremendous Democratic-Republican registration differential and the inability to campaign well in the Coronavirus era, the odds of her winning a race she should win in contrast to Mfume’s character are prohibitive,” Vatz said.
Vatz said “reasonable political observers would put their money on Mr. Mfume, despite his manifest undeservedness to serve.” Vatz said Mfume is “the personification of the double standard in Maryland,” adding that Mfume has been “credibly accused of granting political favors to women who were sexually compliant, while harassing those who were not.”
There are 19,487 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as Monday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, while 858 people in Maryland have died from the virus.