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Republican Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday a special primary election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore. In this file photo, the Democratic congressman and his wife, Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, smile as they walk through the grand opening of Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday a special primary election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore. In this file photo, the Democratic congressman and his wife, Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, smile as they walk through the grand opening of Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

A special primary election for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ seat representing Maryland’s 7th congressional district will be held Feb. 4, with a special general election on April 28, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday.

The announcement kicks off a campaign to replace the longtime Baltimore congressman, a chief critic and investigator of President Donald Trump, as well as a defender of his hometown in the face of slights from the president.

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Candidates who want to run for the seat can file their candidacy paperwork starting Wednesday, with a deadline of Nov. 20.

The special general election will be the same day as the regular primary elections for the 2020 election cycle — a decision Hogan said he made to save money and lessen confusion about when voters need to show up at the polls.

Hogan also said he hoped the schedule would allow candidates enough time for “a robust campaign,” while also making sure that the process doesn’t drag on.

“It is imperative for the 7th congressional district to have a strong voice in the House of Representatives, and today we are ensuring the process to fill this historic Maryland seat moves forward in a fair and timely manner,” Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement.

The winner would finish the remainder of Cummings’ term, which ends in January 2021. Any candidate who wishes to win a full, two-year term starting that month would need to run in the regular election cycle, with the primary on April 28 and general election in November.

An open congressional seat in the Baltimore area is rare, and many Democrats have been weighing whether to run. The region’s other representatives, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes, are Democrats who have been in office since 2003 and 2007, respectively.

Cummings, who had cancer, died Oct. 17.

Many are waiting to see if his widow, Maya 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.

Special Election Proclamation

Rockeymoore Cummings — who was elected chairwoman of the state Democratic Party in December 2018 — has not said whether she will run for her husband’s seat. She did not reply Monday to messages.

“She is a phenomenal, smart, intelligent woman," said Baltimore City Council president Brandon Scott, who is running for mayor in the Democratic primary in April.

Scott said he not made an endorsement, but "if she chooses to do that, she will be a force to be reckoned with.”

There are currently no women in Maryland’s congressional delegation.

Several state lawmakers say they are weighing a 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.

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Sen. Jill P. Carter, a Baltimore Democrat, said she’ll form an exploratory committee to help her weigh her options.

Democratic Del. Vanessa Atterbeary of Howard County said she’s thinking about whether she should run.

“Some folks have been calling me about it and reaching out to me. I’ve had some serious conversations about it,” she said Monday.

Atterbeary noted that as a Howard resident, she’d have to convince voters in the other parts of the district — which includes much of Baltimore and a chunk of Baltimore County — that she would represent their interests, as well of those in her home county.

Democratic State Sen. Cory McCray of Baltimore said he’s been “enthused” by calls and text messages he’s gotten from people encouraging him to run.

“I’m actually giving it serious consideration,” he said.

Baltimore County Del. Charles Sydnor, a Democrat, said he considers it an honor that people are urging him to run for Cummings’ seat. Sydnor said he looks forward to being part of the conversation “about who could assume the great privilege of taking up his work.”

Democratic Del. Jay Jalisi of Baltimore County, who was reprimanded by his colleagues this year for mistreating staff in Annapolis, said he’ll decide in the next week or two whether to run.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, who had been among rumored potential candidates, said Monday that he has not given “serious consideration” to running.

Members of Congress must be 25 years old and residents of the state they wish to represent. They are not required to live in the district.

Cummings won the seat in 1996 after a primary with 27 candidates in which he received 37% of the vote. After his first election, he never faced a strong opponent and won all of his elections by lopsided margins. In 2018, he won re-election with 76% of the vote.

Elections officials could not estimate Monday how much the special election will cost. Local governments pay for workers who run polling places, while the state and the local governments split the cost of machines, ballots and transportation, said Donna Duncan, assistant deputy administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Many logistical details need to be worked out, Duncan said, including securing polling places for the Feb. 4 primary and determining if early voting will be offered ahead of it. Public schools, which often are used as polling places, will be holding classes Feb. 4 in all three jurisdictions in the district.

The district’s voters are 68% Democratic, with just 16% Republican voters and the rest unaffiliated or belonging to third parties, making it difficult for any candidate who is not a Democrat to win the seat.

Dr. Mark Gosnell, a pulmonologist with MedStar Health, has announced that he is running as a Democrat for the seat.

On the Republican side, Liz Matory has announced that she intends to run for the seat. She tried unsuccessfully last year to unseat Ruppersberger in the 2nd District.

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