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Who is Kweisi Mfume? Fast facts about the Democrat who won Maryland’s 7th District special primary

Kweisi Mfume gives a victory speech at his primary election night party at The Forum in Baltimore.

Former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume defeated Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, state Sen. Jill Carter and 21 other opponents in Tuesday’s special primary election for the Democratic nomination to finish out the final months of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ term.

Kimberly Klacik, a nonprofit owner and Baltimore County Republican Central committee member who lives in Middle River, won the Republican special primary and will face Mfume in a special election April 28.

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Here’s a quick rundown of what you should know about Mfume:

Political background

Mfume, a former Baltimore city councilman, represented the 7th Congressional District for a decade before becoming president of the NAACP. First elected to Congress in 1986, he was Cummings’ immediate predecessor in the seat and served as vice chair and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

He calls himself “a progressive moderate,” saying he is “very, very progressive” on social issues, but “a little more moderate” on fiscal concerns.

Mfume says his congressional priorities would include lowering the cost of prescription drugs, improving the Affordable Care Act health care system, and reinstating a federal assault weapons ban.

NAACP tenure

As NAACP president from 1996 until 2004, Mfume was credited with steering the historic civil rights organization out of debt through fundraising and fiscal austerity. He abruptly left the job, saying he had no specific plans other than taking “a break” and spending time with his children.

But a recent review of records by The Baltimore Sun found Mfume’s departure followed the threat of a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, several negative performance reviews and a 2004 vote by the executive committee of the NAACP’s board not to grant him a new contract.

He declined to be interviewed about the records, saying in a statement: “Sometimes strong-willed leaders have differences of opinion.”

Growing up

Born Frizzell Gray in West Baltimore, he quit school and fathered five children out of wedlock before having what he describes as a street-corner “epiphany.” During a 1971 craps game, Mfume says, he saw his mother, who had died more than seven years earlier, and began a transformation to a black leader who led the NAACP for nine years.

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Mfume attended Morgan State University, where he changed his name and became a radio personality at WEBB-AM and, later, WEAA-FM. He graduated magna cum laude, and he has maintained a strong connection with the historically black university, serving as chairman of the university’s Board of Regents since 2012.

Close with Elijah Cummings

Age: 71

Home: Baltimore

Family: Wife, six children

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University, master’s degree in international global studies from Johns Hopkins University

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Experience: Chairman, Morgan State board of regents, 2012-present; U.S. House of Representatives; member, 1987-1997; Baltimore City Council, 1979-1986; president, NAACP, 1996-2004

Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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