It’s finally official. Former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume will finish the term of the late Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings after winning an election for his Maryland seat Tuesday.
In a special election structured around a largely mail-in vote, Mfume, who led the NAACP from 1996 to 2004, beat Republican Kimberly Klacik for the heavily Democratic 7th Congressional District, which Cummings had held from 1996 until his death last October. Mfume had held the seat for a decade prior to Cummings being elected, but resigned to lead the NAACP.
Mfume, 71, acknowledged that voters cast their ballots in the shadow of the gripping coronavirus pandemic which has sharply affected the district, including much of Baltimore.
“To them, to their families and to the families of so many others who have lost lives prematurely to this disease,” Mfume said in his address after winning, according to the Associated Press. “I want all of you to know that from day one, all of my attention, all of my energy and all of my focus in the United States Congress will be on using science, data and common sense to help get our nation through this dark hour in our history.”
Only three polling stations were open to voters because of social distancing measures. Ballots were otherwise sent weeks in advance for mail-in voting. The strategy was an alternative to voting practices a few weeks ago in the Wisconsin primary several weeks ago when voters were forced to stand in lines for hours to cast ballots, putting them at higher risk for coronavirus spread.
The virus has taken a serious hold in the largely African American district. According to data reported by the Maryland Department of Health, there are currently 2,631 COVID-19 confirmed diagnoses with 94 deaths in Baltimore County. Of those cases identified by race, 921 are Black.
Mfume pledged to address long-standing issues that have been prevalent in the district for a while including food deserts, a crumbling transportation infrastructure, and outdated school buildings, the AP reported.
“I promise you that as your congressman I will use every ability that I have to bring about that change,” Mfume said.