Democrat Kweisi Mfume won Tuesday's election to carry out the rest of the late Elijah Cummings’ term in Congress, clinching a seat he held over a decade before leaving to lead the NAACP in 1996.
“I hold myself out to you this evening, willing and wanting to listen to you, to work with you, to build with you, to share with you,” Mfume said during a victory speech Tuesday night streamed live on Facebook.
The election was Maryland’s first to be conducted primarily by mail due to the health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic, which Mfume called the largest challenge he has ever known.
“What ordinarily would have been a great, and I like to think grand, celebration this evening is temperate, properly so by the fact that many of our citizens at this hour are struggling to fight off the terrible disease of the coronavirus,” he said.
Mfume said his first order of business in Congress will be addressing the pandemic, “by using the science and the data and most of all common sense to help find a way.”
Mfume received about 74 percent of Tuesday’s preliminary vote count, while Republican opponent Kimberly Klacik received around 24 percent.
The heavily Democratic, majority-black district includes about half of Baltimore City and parts of Baltimore and Howard counties.
The state board of elections sent ballots to eligible voters in the district and opened one in-person polling center each in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County for those who didn’t receive a ballot or who otherwise could not vote by mail.
Of the nearly half a million special election ballots mailed out, about 111,000 were filled out and returned by Tuesday afternoon.
The board of elections will accept ballots postmarked by Tuesday. The board will certify the election by May 8.
Mfume handily won the 7th congressional district’s crowded special February primary, facing Cummings’ widow Maya Rockeymoore Cummings and state senator Jill Carter. On Tuesday night, the former congressman reiterated a point he made throughout his February victory speech: “Experience matters.”
He added that he feels blessed and honored to have succeeded Cummings, with whom he had a decades-long friendship.
Mfume will serve out the remainder of Cummings’ term, which ends in January. He will run again in the district’s June 2 regular primary and will face many of the same Democrats he defeated in February, including Rockeymoore Cummings and Carter.
“Give me your vote once more,” he said. “Every vote counts.”