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Senator Jill P. Carter announces her candidacy Elijah Cummings former seat in the 7th Congressional District.

Invoking the late U.S. Reps. Parren Mitchell and Elijah Cummings, state Sen. Jill Carter began her campaign Tuesday for the 7th Congressional District seat that the two trailblazing lawmakers each held.

Carter, a progressive who emphasizes criminal justice reform and “Medicare for all” health coverage, joins a growing field vying for the seat after Cummings’ Oct. 17 death.

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In all, 19 Democrats and seven Republicans have filed to run. The filing period for the special election ends at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Carter, who has formed an exploratory committee and started raising campaign funds, formally announced her candidacy in West Baltimore at a statue of Billie Holiday, the jazz singer who grew up in Baltimore. Among her recordings was “Strange Fruit,” a chilling reflection on lynching.

Carter said she came from a powerful civil rights tradition. She is the daughter of civil rights activist Walter P. Carter, whom she also invoked. She said she campaigned as a girl for Mitchell, Maryland’s first African American representative in Congress.

“I stand here with you in that spirit of service of the honorable Parren J. Mitchell,” she told a few dozen supporters and media members . “And like then we will win now by talking about the issues that meet the needs of the people.”

She calls herself “the people’s champion.” That’s how Cummings described her in campaign material when she was running for state Senate, she said in an interview.

“Every day for as long as I can remember I wake up thinking of how I can make life better for people. Elijah knew that about me,” she said.

Cummings had a rare form of cancer called thymic carcinoma when he died last month at 68. He was the first African American lawmaker to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

The congressman’s widow, former Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, is also a candidate for the seat. She has said her husband told her he wanted her to succeed him in Congress.

The district includes parts of Baltimore City and Baltimore and Howard counties.

Carter, 55, headed Baltimore’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement under former Mayor Catherine Pugh before being appointed in 2018 by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to the vacant Baltimore state Senate seat of Nathaniel T. Oaks, who pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. Carter was then elected to the seat.

In the last session, Carter submitted legislation ― later signed by the governor — to prevent the University of Maryland Medical System from entering business deals with its board members.

She previously served 14 years as a state delegate.

Carter was a vocal opponent of the mass arrests under the mayoral administration of Martin O'Malley. She said Tuesday that ending “mass incarceration” was a top priority.

Among the other Democrats running are former national NAACP President Kweisi Mfume; state House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch of Baltimore; and Del. Terri L. Hill, a physician from Columbia.

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The Republican candidates include Kimberly Klacik, who runs a nonprofit and is a member of a county Republican Central Committee; former 2nd Congressional candidate Liz Matory; and grassroots activist and businesswoman Reba Hawkins.

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