Former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume and law professor F. Michael Higginbotham reported the most cash on hand among the candidates for the 7th Congressional District special primary, each saying they had more than $200,000 for the closing days of the campaign.

The first and only reports due to the Federal Election Commission ahead of the Feb. 4 primary trickled in ahead of a midnight Thursday deadline, and some were still unavailable Friday.


Higginbotham reported having $209,398 in the bank, and Mfume told the commission he had $208,636 in cash on hand.

But Higginbotham spent more than seven times as much as Mfume, reporting $406,285 in expenditures so far in the race to fill the seat of the late Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died Oct. 17. Mfume, who represented the 7th District from 1987 to 1996, has spent just $57,461.

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a former chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party and Cummings’ widow, reported $68,745 on hand after raising about $208,000 for the race.

Saafir Rabb, a community activist, had $72,985 on hand after raising $217,273, according to his report filed shortly before midnight Thursday. Rabb took in no money from political action committees, but he did raise substantial funds from donors outside Maryland. Of his top eight donors, six live in California and one in Texas.

But for both Rockeymoore Cummings and Rabb, their cash available wasn’t as high as it might seem.

Federal campaign finance law limits individual donations to $5,600 for an election cycle — half for the primary and half for the general election.

But Rabb and Rockeymoore Cummings had donors who took advantage of the fact that there is a Feb. 4 special primary and an April 28 special general election, as well as an April 28 regular primary and a Nov. 3 regular general election. Some of their donors gave two sets of the maximum of $5,600 for the overlapping election cycles.

That’s legal, said Erin Chlopak, director of campaign finance strategy at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C.

“The contribution limits explicitly apply to each election, and each election is defined separately to include special primaries and runoffs,” she said.

However, Chlopak cautioned that the candidates must keep enough money on hand to issue refunds if they don’t reach the special general election or the regular general election. Federal law prohibits a candidate from spending money on an election they haven’t qualified for.

Rabb collected $11,200 from at least four donors, and three additional donors gave almost as much. So, of the nearly $73,000 Raab has on hand, $39,000 of it is tied to the special general election or the regular general election.

Rockeymoore Cummings raised $208,008. She had one donor who contributed more than $11,000, including funds dedicated to the special general election and the regular general election.

Like Rabb, she had success courting donors from out of state. Of her top 15 contributors, seven were based outside Maryland, Rockeymoore Cummings’ report showed.

She hosted a fundraiser this week in the Washington, D.C., office of Amazon featuring guest speaker and television personality Star Jones. Suggested donations started at $250, according to an invitation the campaign posted on Facebook. Money raised during that event won’t appear on the reports filed Thursday; they cover only fundraising efforts between Oct. 1 and Jan. 15.


State Sen. Jill P. Carter reported having $41,627 on hand after raising $54,219. She had spent $14,000 on the race, according to her report.

The Democratic primary is likely to determine the representative to fill the remainder of Cummings’ two-year term, given the party’s substantial advantage in the district.

Cummings had held the seat, which includes parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County, since 1996.

Higginbotham’s vigorous spending, which included fees to more than half a dozen consulting firms, was made possible by $506,000 he loaned to the campaign. Expenses included $21,782 in campaign finance consulting, $52,947 for campaign management, $29,900 for polling, $16,243 for mail and $25,000 for “persuasion calls.”

The University of Baltimore law school professor raised an additional $109,000 beyond his loan to himself.

In a news release, Mfume’s campaign touted his small donations, saying 70% were $200 or smaller and three-quarters came from Maryland residents. About $19,000 of the $265,000 Mfume raised came from political action committees, according to his filing.

The next reports are due April 15.

Del. Terri Hill, who represents Baltimore and Howard counties, was the first candidate to file a report, noting just over $40,000 in cash on hand and $49,153 in contributions. Hill, a physician, spent less than $10,000 in the race, and received two individual maximum donations of $2,800 from Donna Hill Staton, her sister and a former Maryland deputy attorney general, and Staton’s husband, Kerry.

Longtime Cummings staff member Harry Spikes reported $8,830 on hand, after raising $18,164.

Other Democrats running include state House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch and state Del. Jay Jalisi. Their reports were not available as of Friday evening.

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

Klacik led the Republican candidates with more than $64,000 on hand, while Matory reported $4,600 remaining in her account, according to reports for both candidates. Reports for the other Republicans in the race were not available Friday.

Matthew A. Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University professor emeritus of political science, said the large field of candidates — 32 in total — means fewer votes will be needed to win and theoretically, less money must be spent. But the winning candidate will still need enough cash to buy TV ads to set themselves apart from the pack.

“In order to get listened to in all that racket, you’re going to have to be able to pay for a really loud publicity campaign,” he said. “The key to that is going to be television time.”

Maryland congressional primary elections are closed — which means people can only vote in a Republican or Democratic primary if they’re registered as affiliated with the corresponding political party. Unaffiliated voters cannot vote in the special primary, but will be able to vote in the special general election.