By Jim Ellis
Jan. 31, 2020 — The Iowa Caucus is not the only election happening next week. The day after Iowans gather in their precinct meetings on Monday, Baltimore area voters will go to the polls to choose nominees to replace the late Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) who passed away in early October.
Though Tuesday hosts only the special primary election, the Democratic nominee emerging from that vote will succeed Rep. Cummings in the April 28 special general election from a seat that is virtually unwinnable for a Republican.
Which of the 24 Democrats running will win the nomination is a point of speculation, however. The field includes the late congressman’s widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who resigned her position as Maryland Democratic Party chair to run, and the man who Elijah Cummings replaced in a 1996 special election, former congressman, Kweisi Mfume. Mfume resigned from the House to become President of the NAACP, thus necessitating the special congressional election 24 years ago. He would remain in this position until he ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2006.
Also in the race are state House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, state Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore), and state Delegates Terri Hill, a Columbia physician, and Jay Jalisi (D-Baltimore County).
The candidate who has so far spent the most money, however, is law professor Michael Higginbotham. He has raised just over $110,000 and loaned his campaign over $500,000. The $600,000+ total is almost $400,000 more than the next closest competitor, ex-congressman Mfume, who reported just over $266,000 in receipts on his Jan. 15 pre-primary financial disclosure filing. The other candidate raising over $200,000 is business consultant Saafir Rabb. All of his funds come from other individuals. Higginbotham and Mfume report having the most cash-on-hand, just over $200,000 apiece.
With so many candidates running in what will likely be a low-turnout election and featuring several well-known candidates and others with political bases, it is extremely difficult to predict a winner before voting begins. Therefore, this race will be a close affair and likely winnow down to a handful of the candidates attracting the preponderance of the votes, almost assuredly the ones listed above.
The 7th District, which contains 60 percent of Baltimore city, is prohibitively Democratic. Hillary Clinton carried the seat in 2016 in a 76-20 percent margin. In his two elections, President Obama recorded vote percentages of 76.2 percent here each time. Demographically, the citizen voting age population projects an African-American majority of 54.5 percent. The non-Hispanic white number is 36.9 percent. Asians comprise 4.6 percent of the C-VAP, while Hispanics only have 2.3 percent of the population segment universe.
In addition to having Baltimore city, the 7th expands to encompass about a quarter of Baltimore County and just over half of Howard County.
This is the first of the four vacant House seats going to election. Primaries to choose nominees for the open northern Wisconsin seat, the 7th District from which former Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) resigned, are scheduled for Feb. 18 with a May 12 special general election.
The California seat of resigned Rep. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce/Simi Valley) will have a jungle primary on Super Tuesday, March 3. If no candidate wins outright with more than 50 percent, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election also on May 12.
Resigned Rep. Chris Collins’ (R-NY) seat looks to be going to a special general election on April 28, concurrent with the New York presidential primary, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has yet to officially set the date. The county Republican chairmen have chosen state Sen. Chris Jacobs (R-Orchard Park) as their nominee. Democrats are expected to soon name 2018 nominee Nate McMurray, who lost to Rep. Collins by just one percentage point, as their candidate.
The one vacancy that will not be filled in special election is resigned California Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R) 50th District seat in San Diego County. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced he is not calling a special election, meaning the seat will remain vacant through the balance of this year and filled through the regular election process.