The widow of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings said Thursday she is considering running for his 7th congressional district seat in a special election that has several candidates jumping into the race or promising to announce their plans soon.
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who is also the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, made her first statement Thursday evening about the special election.
“I love Baltimore city, the counties of the 7th congressional district, and the state of Maryland," Rockeymoore Cummings said. "I’m deeply committed to public service and I’m honored by the widespread encouragement I’ve received to continue Elijah’s amazing legacy. As I mourn the loss of my husband, I’m thinking carefully about the future and will make an announcement very soon.”
Also Thursday night, Kweisi Mfume said in a statement that he would announce his plans for the special election Monday at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore. He held the seat from 1987 to 1995, then became head of the national NAACP, headquartered in Baltimore, for nine years.
Meanwhile, Del. Talmadge Branch said Thursday he was entering the race, and former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she is considering running, as well.
The rush of announcements and statements followed the opening of a short window for candidates to file to run in the Feb. 4 special primary to represent the district, which includes parts of the city of Baltimore and the counties of Baltimore and Howard. The state Board of Elections began accepting filings Wednesday, and candidates must declare their intention to run by Nov. 20.
Cummings, who had cancer, died Oct. 17.
After the special primary, a special general election will be held April 28. The winner of that election will fill the remainder of Cummings’ term, which runs into January 2021.
April 28 is also the same day as Maryland’s regularly scheduled primary for congressional seats. So, anyone who wants to keep the seat beyond January 2021 also must run in that primary and advance to the regular general election in November 2020.
Branch, a Democrat who represents East Baltimore and is the majority whip in the House of Delegates, is the first sitting elected official to join the race. Branch is also a former chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
“I’ve decided I’m going to do it,” Branch said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. “I met with my committee last night. They agreed I should move forward with it.”
Branch, 63, was a special assistant to former Democratic U.S. Rep. Parren J. Mitchell when he represented the 7th District in the 1980s.
“I was a protege of his,” Branch said. “As House majority whip, I have the ability to bring people together. That makes me feel I am very qualified to do this. I know how to deliver and make sure funds go back to the community. I understand how the government truly works. I’m uniquely qualified to do this.”
Rawlings-Blake said Thursday she was considering running.
“I’m keeping my options open,” Rawlings-Blake said.
Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, was Baltimore’s mayor from 2010 to 2016. As City Council president in 2010, she took office when Democratic Mayor Sheila Dixon resigned, then won the job in her own right in 2011. But Rawlings-Blake opted in 2015 not to seek a second, four-year term the next year. She cited a need to take election politics out of helping Baltimore recover from the unrest sparked by the death of Freddie Gray from injuries he suffered in the custody of city police.
Many potential candidates are waiting to see if Rockeymoore Cummings wants to succeed her husband.
In 2017, Rockeymoore Cummings announced she would seek the Democratic nomination for governor to challenge Hogan the next year. She dropped out in early 2018 when her husband was hospitalized in the latest in a string of health setbacks. Rockeymoore Cummings was elected chairwoman of the state party in December 2018.
Also Thursday, two state delegates said they were close to deciding about whether to run.
Democrat Del. Terri L. Hill, who represents areas of both Baltimore and Howard counties, said she has a strong interest in national issues and deep roots in the district.
“I have longstanding ties to the Baltimore community,” Hill said. “Many of the issues that are most important to me are issues that I feel have national implications.”
And Baltimore Del. Keith Haynes he would make a decision soon.
“I’m continuing to listen to my constituents and my supporters,” Haynes said. “I’m getting a lot of support and calls from within my district and beyond. We’re still working through the process and we’ll make a decision shortly.”
Democratic state Sen. Jill P. Carter of West Baltimore announced Monday that she has formed an exploratory committee to consider running.
“The work that Congressman Elijah Cummings dedicated his life to must continue...,” Carter said in a statement. “I was honored that Elijah called me the ‘People’s Champion.’"
Several other state lawmakers also say they are considering whether to run. They have the advantage of being able to run for Congress without sacrificing their seats in the General Assembly, which are not up for election until 2022. They include: Democratic Del. Vanessa Atterbeary of Howard County, Democratic state Sen. Cory McCray of Baltimore, and Baltimore County delegates Charles Sydnor and Jay Jalisi.
Democratic Sen. Antonio Hayes of Baltimore said Thursday he had ruled out a run.
Three Democratic candidates have filed to seek the party’s nomination April 28 for the full, two-year team, including Dr. Mark Gosnell, a pulmonologist with MedStar Health. Saafir Rabb, a community activist, announced Wednesday that he was running, too.
On the Republican side, Liz Matory is one of five candidates who has filed for the regular April 28 primary. She tried unsuccessfully last year to unseat Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger in the 2nd District.
Matory is one of four candidates who also filed for the special primary on Feb. 4.
Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.