As the citizens of this country mourn the loss of a political giant, after learning of the passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings, a Democrat who represents the 7th Congressional District of Maryland; the clock begins to tick on what happens next with regard to filling the now vacant congressional district – ahead of a crucial time in this country and in Congress.
The 68-year old congressman, who has served his district for the past twenty-three years and was the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, was a critical voice and vote for Democrats as they prepare articles of impeachment aimed at President Donald Trump. Cummings, who was a staunch critic of the U.S. President, worked up until his last breath serving his district constituents and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility, according to his wife Maya Rockeymoore-Cummings.
In an issued statement earlier this morning, Rockeymoore-Cummings – who currently serves as the Chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party – said that her husband “believed that our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity, and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem.” She went on to say that it was her honor to walk by his side on their incredible journey.
And it is that democracy that Cummings believed in so dearly that will now be at the center of Baltimore politics for the coming months, as the man who initially got elected in a special election – following the resignation of Congressman Kweisi Mfume – will now have his seat filled by way of a special election. According to Article 1, Section 2, Clause 4 of the United States Constitution, “When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.” That translates to mean that it is now up to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a second-term Republican, to call for a special election to fill the vacancy left by Cummings’ passing.
The Governor has ten days to issue a proclamation offering dates for a special primary and general election, according to Maryland election law. The special primary election shall be held on a Tuesday that is at least 65-days after the proclamation issued by the Governor. The special general election shall occur 65-days after the primary election has concluded. However, there is a provision in the United States Code that would allow for the vacancy to exist longer if Congress is in its second session, which doesn’t begin until January 2020; therefore, the special primary election to fill Cummings’ vacancy should occur sometime in the month of January, with the special general election following 65-days later.
But the question that remains is will officials be allowed to let the special general election occur during the April 28th Primary Elections that are already scheduled for the 2020 Presidential elections; or will the general have to happen in mid to late March or early April, only to have that individual have to then turn around and run for the office again in April and in November. And while some people would question that wisdom and ask if whether election officials could keep the seat vacant until the scheduled April 28th primary, the problem would exist is that whoever won in April would not officially be able to take office until they won the general election, which wouldn’t take place until November 3, 2020 – leaving that important seat vacant for over a year.
Of interest is, anyone who files to run in the special primary election, which will almost certainly have to happen before the January 24, 2020 filing deadline for the actual Presidential Election, since they would then have to also file as a candidate in that race, and if they win, or lose, still have to run in the April 28th Primary and November 3rd General Election – after winning the presumably January and March special primary and general elections. (Did you get all that?)
Therefore, city – and county – election officials will have to conduct a special election for the seventh congressional district in the coming months, while also gearing up for what looks to be one of the most contentious and highest turnout elections in the history of United States elections.
And given that a special election is held in such a short period of time, it tends to give elected officials a greater opportunity since name recognition works in their favor, and its hard for a political novice or unelected person to get their name out there within two months. It also doesn’t hurt that any elected official currently in office won’t have to resign or risk losing their seat to run for the seat. And there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of names already being floated regarding having some interest in running to fill the huge footprints left by Cummings.
Those names include 41st District State Senator Jill P. Carter, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, 45th District Delegate Talmadge Branch and even Cummings’ wife, Maya – who has been rumored to be next in line for his seat. And given that Rockeymoore-Cummings will be able to greatly benefit from using the Cummings last name, it would be her race to lose coming out of the gate, unless of course she decides to stand side-by-side with her husband’s mentee, Mrs. Mosby to endorse her; than it would appear to be Mosby’s seat to lose.
However, the 7th congressional district does not include just Baltimore City, but rather has a sliver of Baltimore County and a good chunk of Howard County in it as well. And given that there may be a half dozen or more Baltimore City officials running for the seat, if someone like newly elected democratic rockstar Vanessa Atterbeary – a state delegate from Howard County – gets in the race, she could very well allow the city officials to split up the vote enough for her to win with a majority vote from her home county.
And of course, all of this is pure speculation until we see who gets into the race following Governor Hogan’s proclamation announcing the special election dates. But until then, let us remember the champion of civil rights that Congressman Cummings became over the years, and honor his legacy while we mourn his loss.
Section 8-710. Congressional vacancy — Governor’s proclamation