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Crowded Field, Crowded Forum For Democrats In 7th Congressional District Race

Mary Rose Madden

More than a dozen Democrats running for the late Congressman Elijah Cummings's seat pitched their platforms to a crowd at the Baltimore County Progressive Democrats Club forum on Tuesday.

Many said they were inspired by Cummings, but they pointed out they had their own agendas.

Jill Carter, a Maryland state senator and former state delegate, reminded the crowd that she sponsored the legislation that prompted an investigation into former Mayor Catherine Pugh last spring. If elected, Carter said she'd address what she referred to as the "cancer of all cancers: campaign finance."

"I've always been funded by the people. When I go to Congress, I will also be funded by the people," she told the crowd.

The senator said candidates need "exorbitant amounts of money" to run a campaign and get elected, yet citizens are confused when the candidate they voted for is in office and doesn't represent their interests. 

Michael Higginbotham is a constitutional  law professor at the University of Baltimore who has written several books about race and law in the United States. This is his first time running for political office, but he said he's been motivated to work for justice since he was a young kid growing up in Los Angeles. 

"As a teenager, I used to get stopped by police...for walking, jogging, riding my bike and driving a car."

He said the police would pat him down, search his car and then release him.

"It's not right...It's not fair," he said. 

Kweisi Mfume, former NAACP President who also served five terms in Congress, said that his work speaks for itself. He highlighted the 1994 assault weapons ban he helped pass. That ban passed by a close vote but expired in 2004.

"We thought maybe after the end of the ten years Congress surely would be enlightened enough to re-authorize it."

Mfume noted that hasn't happened. 

Political newcomer Saafir Rabb said while he doesn't have a history in politics, he has succeeded against very tough odds. He lost a brother to gun violence and another brother is in prison.

He's a graduate of the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University. And he was the COO of the I Can't, We Can Counseling Center in the Park Heights neighborhood of Baltimore, where he was born.

"I came back to Baltimore to make certain that what we have in this district gets changed, gets improved," Rabb told the Baltimore County crowd. 

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the wife of the late Rep. Cummings, explained her strategy to expand social security and emphasized her work on the hill. 

Other candidates mentioned their personal history: Paul Konka, a retired Navy Captain, T. Dan Baker, a former Peace Corps volunteer. State Delegates Terri Hill, Talmadge Branch, and Dr. Jay Jalisi talked about their roles in moving legislation through the Maryland General Assembly.  

The primary is February 4 and the general election is April 28. 

Mary Rose is a reporter and senior news producer for 88.1 WYPR FM, a National Public Radio member station in Baltimore. At the local news desk, she assigns stories, organizes special coverage, edits news stories, develops series and reports.
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