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In this Jan. 24, 2020 photo, Maryland State Senator Jill Carter, of Baltimore, stands in the Maryland Senate in Annapolis, Md. The Baltimore Sun editorial board has endorsed Carter in a special Democratic primary to run for a congressional seat that became vacant with the death of Elijah Cummings in October.
In this Jan. 24, 2020 photo, Maryland State Senator Jill Carter, of Baltimore, stands in the Maryland Senate in Annapolis, Md. The Baltimore Sun editorial board has endorsed Carter in a special Democratic primary to run for a congressional seat that became vacant with the death of Elijah Cummings in October. (Brian Witte/AP)

In Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, there are big shoes to fill. The late Elijah Cummings, a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, was not just a powerful speaker, a man of great compassion and a fearless advocate for the disenfranchised, he was a voice of reason and moral clarity. “We’re better than this,” was a favorite saying and guiding mantra.

The 24 Democratic candidates seeking to take his place bring different styles, skills and priorities. And several stand out, including the congressman’s widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who promised to continue “the fight” her husband started in addressing structural inequities; former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who previously held the post from 1987 to 1996; Del. Talmadge Branch, the longtime majority whip in the Maryland House of Delegates; Del. Terri Hill, a Harvard- and Columbia-educated plastic surgeon; and law professor F. Michael Higginbotham, a political unknown who’s managed to make a solid dent in the race.

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State Sen. Jill P. Carter is the Democrat who has earned our endorsement in Tuesday’s special primary election, however. The 55-year-old city resident, lawyer and daughter of civil rights leader Walter P. Carter would add a female voice to the Maryland delegation, which has been missing since Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski retired in 2017, and she knows Baltimore — the heart of the district. Ms. Carter was an early opponent of a mass arrest policy that disproportionately targeted African American residents in the city under the Martin O’Malley mayoral administration. And she has continued the theme of equity in justice and improving opportunities for those caught up in the system ever since.

She was also behind legislation introduced last session to end contracts between the University of Maryland Medical System and its board members, which launched a Baltimore Sun investigation that led to the board’s overhaul, and Mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation and criminal conviction. And she has long served Maryland: She was also a state delegate for 14 years.

She is not without controversy and complications. Senator Carter is considered the most progressive candidate in the race, and some of her ideas lean too far left. She also was deemed a divisive figure in the Maryland House of Delegates, though she appears to have had more success in the state Senate, showing she can work with others, build relationships and put personal feelings aside to get the job done — something at which the congressman she seeks to replace excelled.

In his final years and as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings went toe-to-toe with Donald Trump over matters ranging from family detainment to the impeachment inquiry. And when he did, the son of sharecroppers did not flinch, nor did he lose control. Even as the president castigated his district as a “rodent-infested mess,” Cummings would not allow himself to be provoked. Senator Carter, we suspect, might react more defensively, but would also stand her ground and fiercely fight for her district, which also includes parts of Baltimore and Howard counties.

Reba A. Hawkins

Among the Republican candidates, 50-year-old Reba A. Hawkins, a community activist and owner of a janitorial services firm from Mid-Govans, is our choice in the field of eight. She is refreshingly untethered to the political orthodoxy of the GOP, clearly recognizing that to be successful in the 7th requires a streak of independence and an understanding of issues important to a majority-minority district. She favors greater investment in transportation and infrastructure, recognizes that income inequality is a pervasive problem, would like to improve upon the Affordable Care Act rather than scrap it and, like Cummings, favors spending billions of dollars more to fight the nation’s opioid epidemic.

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