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7th District field narrows; Dels. Terri Hill and Talmadge Branch won’t compete in April for full term

After losses in a special primary in the 7th Congressional District, Maryland House of Delegates Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, state Del. Terri Hill and University of Baltimore law professor F. Michael Higginbotham won’t compete in April for a full term representing the Baltimore area in the U.S. House. In this Jan. 20, 2020, photo, candidates (l-r) Kweisi Mfume, Saafir Rabb, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Jill Carter, Hill, Branch and Higginbotham are shown at a debate.
After losses in a special primary in the 7th Congressional District, Maryland House of Delegates Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, state Del. Terri Hill and University of Baltimore law professor F. Michael Higginbotham won’t compete in April for a full term representing the Baltimore area in the U.S. House. In this Jan. 20, 2020, photo, candidates (l-r) Kweisi Mfume, Saafir Rabb, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Jill Carter, Hill, Branch and Higginbotham are shown at a debate. (Kenneth K. Lam)

Maryland House of Delegates Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, state Del. Terri Hill and University of Baltimore law professor F. Michael Higginbotham say they won’t be candidates in an April primary for a full term representing the 7th Congressional District seat long held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

None finished in the top three Tuesday in a separate primary — this one to select Democratic and Republican nominees who will vie to finish Cummings’ term. Branch, Hill and Higginbotham had hoped to use that earlier election as a springboard to generate momentum for the April 28 contest, which is considered the bigger prize.

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Hill, a Howard County Democrat and physician, had said Tuesday night that she performed well against candidates with higher name recognition and media exposure. She won her home county while finishing fourth overall with 7.5% of the vote.

But in a statement Wednesday, Hill said that while she connected with voters, she “just simply ran out of time” in the 11-week campaign.

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“Throughout this campaign, I met many people who wished me well and, at the same time, expressed their sadness that if I won, I wouldn’t represent them in Annapolis anymore,” she said. “That sentiment was so meaningful to me and helped me make my decision.”

The Oct. 17 death of Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, created the vacant seat for the district that includes parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County. In Tuesday’s special primary, voters chose Democrat Kweisi Mfume and Republican Kimberly Klacik to run in the April 28 special general election to fill the remainder of Cummings’ term.

In the regular U.S. House primary on the same date, voters will select nominees to run in November for a full, two-term running from January 2021 to January 2023. It’s that race from which Hill, Branch, Higginbotham and a fourth candidate, Leslie Grant, are withdrawing.

Higginbotham, who had loaned his campaign $506,000, finished fifth Tuesday among 24 Democrats, with 4.5% of the vote. Branch was ninth with 1.1%.

Branch’s departure from the campaign was noted on the state Board of Elections online list of candidates.

“Mfume won pretty solidly,” Branch said in an interview. “It made sense to me to step out and allow the rest to go forward.”

Grant also was listed on the elections board site as dropping out Thursday.

In a statement, Higginbotham said: “It was clear from the start of this campaign that Kweisi’s experience and knowledge made him exceptionally well qualified to become a U.S. congressman again. I believe that he will appreciate how desperate the people are to see the current administration held accountable for its actions.”

However, Higginbotham said he was not making an endorsement of any candidate yet and “would like to spend some time thinking on that.”

Those who filed to run in the regular April primary but didn’t wish to move forward after Tuesday’s special primary had a deadline to drop out by 5 p.m. Thursday.

Mfume and the top finishers behind him — Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the former Maryland Democratic Party chairwoman and Cummings’ widow; and state Sen. Jill P. Carter — said they will stay in the regular April primary.

Mfume said in an interview Wednesday that running in the regular April primary will require “a second strategy.” Turnout is expected to be relatively high in April because the ballot will include a number of high-profile races, including a presidential primary and Baltimore City races for mayor and other municipal offices.

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Among the Republicans continuing on are Klacik, William Newton, a Baltimore County Republican Party committee member, and businessman Ray Bly.

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.

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