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University of Baltimore law professor F. Michael Higginbotham, shown in this handout photo, says he will lend $500,000 to his campaign in the race to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings.
University of Baltimore law professor F. Michael Higginbotham, shown in this handout photo, says he will lend $500,000 to his campaign in the race to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings. (Glenwood Jackson/Courtesy- Higginbotham campaign)

University of Baltimore law professor F. Michael Higginbotham said he will lend $500,000 to his campaign in the race to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a contest that has attracted 32 candidates.

“I hate asking people for money,” the constitutional law professor said in a recent interview. “When I ask them for money, I want them to know that I have a personal stake in this campaign, as well.”

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Higginbotham is seeking to distinguish himself in a crowded 7th District Democratic primary field that features 24 candidates, including Cummings’ widow, former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume and four state legislators.

Eight candidates will appear on the Republican side. The primary is Feb. 4 with a general election April 28 to fill the rest of Cummings’ two-year term.

Higginbotham said he anticipates it will take about $1 million to run an effective campaign, including television, radio and print advertisements. He said he expects to raise the other $500,000 from donors.

Infusions of large amounts of personal cash are more common in presidential and Senate campaigns than U.S. House races.

Higginbotham’s campaign said he amassed the initial $500,000 by being prudent with his money and investing well, and because his books have been successful. One book — on the issue of race in the legal process — is used by a number of law schools in their courses.

He said his campaign will focus largely on “equity issues” related to criminal justice, health care and education.

“When I was growing up, I used to get stopped by the police a lot [in Los Angeles],” said Higginbotham, who is black. “I would go home and tell my dad I didn’t do anything wrong. He said to me, ‘Life isn’t fair.’ I think it should be more fair. America should be more fair.”

Higginbotham said he will be taking the next semester off to devote more time to the race. He said he expects support from many area college students, but told his current students it would be premature to volunteer for the campaign.

“I said, ‘Wait until you get your exam and get your grade.’ We don’t want any foolishness like that,” he said.

Among the other Democrats running are Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Cummings’ widow and former chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party; state House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch; longtime Cummings staff member Harry Spikes; state Sen. Jill P. Carter; and Del. Terri L. Hill, a physician.

The Republican candidates include Kimberly Klacik, who runs a nonprofit and is a member of a Baltimore County Republican Party committee; former 2nd Congressional District candidate Liz Matory, and William T. Newton, another Baltimore County Republican Party committee member.

Cummings, who chaired the House Oversight and Reform Committee, had a rare form of cancer called thymic carcinoma when he died Oct. 17 at 68.

The district includes parts of Baltimore and Howard counties and the city of Baltimore.

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