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Sun endorses Kweisi Mfume for 7th Congressional District | COMMENTARY

Kweisi Mfume, showen here giving a victory speech at his primary election night party at The Forum in Baltimore, has earned The Sun's endorsement for the 7th Congressional District seat based on his proven track record of solid leadership.
Kweisi Mfume, showen here giving a victory speech at his primary election night party at The Forum in Baltimore, has earned The Sun's endorsement for the 7th Congressional District seat based on his proven track record of solid leadership. (Kenneth K. Lam)

Much has been made about Tuesday’s special general election to fill Maryland’s vacant 7th Congressional District seat as a test run for mail-in voting amid coronavirus concerns, and it will indeed offer some insight into what we can expect going forward. But it is foremost about selecting a successor to fill the remainder of the term held by Rep. Elijah Cummings, who occupied the post for 23 years before his death in October, faithfully serving his constituents and fighting for equity and opportunity for all.

The person who wins the position April 28th will have an edge in the contest for the next term, which begins in early January (a primary vote will occur in June and a General Election in November). He or she has legendary shoes to fill and must bring a similar level of strength, reason and moral clarity to advocating for the largely urban district, which encompasses half of Baltimore City, most of Howard County and parts of Baltimore County.

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We endorse Kweisi Mfume for the 7th Congressional District seat. He previously held the post for five terms, from 1987 to 1996, serving as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and on a broad mix of committees, including financial services, education and small business. Mr. Mfume also held the ranking seat on what was then known as the General Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Likewise, Cummings served as the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, investigating everything from the widening gap between ultra-rich and middle-class American workers and the impeachment case against the president, and we expect Mr. Mfume to also point a spotlight on injustice.

His past is not without controversy and complication, however, including well-documented allegations of unproven sexual harassment made against him when he was leading the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. We neither dismiss nor excuse such claims. We can only hope the public airing of them serves as a warning to Mr. Mfume and a lesson for the rest of us about what will no longer be tolerated in America.

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With this additional layer of scrutiny, we expect Mr. Mfume to be a model legislator and to put his focus on the 7th District. His familiarity with the position, with the inner workings of Congress, with the national spotlight and, most importantly, with Baltimore — where he served two terms on the City Council — makes him the clear choice.

He is also more than capable of holding his own should the president again come for District 7, as we saw last year, when Donald Trump castigated the region as a “rodent-infested mess.” Mr. Mfume’s Republican opponent, Kimberly Klacik of Middle River, you may remember, recorded the video of litter amid the poverty in West Baltimore that launched Mr. Trump on his racist tirade against Mr. Cummings, the district and the city in particular.

She has said she acted out of concern for those suffering, but she has done more to harm the 7th District than help it. As much as we’d like to see a woman join the Maryland delegation, a scenario we haven’t had since Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski retired in 2017, Ms. Klacik is not the right choice. To hand her Elijah Cummings’ seat would be an insult to his legacy and a disservice to residents.

Both Congress and Maryland need steady, tested leadership, perhaps now more than ever, given these uncertain times. Mr. Mfume is the candidate most capable of delivering. He has our endorsement.

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The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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