Wednesday at 5 p.m. was the filing deadline for the special election set by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to fill the late-U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ seat. So far 19 Democrats and eight Republicans have announced their intentions to run.
Among the high-profile candidates are former congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, Maryland state Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) and Cummings’ widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.
“I want to represent the issues, I want to represent Elijah and I want to carry his legacy forward,” Rockeymoore Cummings told a crowd of supporters on Nov. 12 in the couple’s Baltimore home, according to the Washington Post. “And build upon that legacy.”
Carter made her announcement on Tuesday before a statue of Baltimore legend Billie Holiday, who was known for the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit.”
The Maryland state senator alluded to Cummings’ civil rights record as a motivation for her run, the Baltimore Sun reported.
“Every day for as long as I can remember I wake up thinking of how I can make life better for people,” Carter told supporters. “Elijah knew that about me.”
However, Cummings was also an ally and supporter of the LGBTQ community, and he told the Washington Blade in 2012 how both he and then-President Obama evolved in their support of same-sex marriage.
“I said to myself, how would I feel if somebody told me that I could not marry my wife for a lifetime?” Cummings told the Blade at the time. “My position is we have one life to live. This is no dress rehearsal. And this is their life. I’m hoping that we can get past this.”
Cummings was also a vocal critic of the proposed First Amendment Defense Act, which would prevent the government from acting against businesses or individuals who discriminate based on sexual orientation.
According to press reports, Cummings was incensed that a 2016 hearing on the bill was scheduled exactly one month after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., the largest mass shooting in U.S. history at the time. He felt the timing was inappropriate.
“Even if you truly believe that being gay is morally wrong, or that people should be allowed to discriminate against gay people, why in the world would you choose today of all days to hold a hearing on this discriminatory legislation,” he said.
The bill is still pending, though President Trump supports the measure.
It remains unclear how the candidates seeking to replace Cummings stand on this and other LGBTQ-related issues before Congress.
Rev. Merrick Moise, a victim advocate and community liaison for the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, expressed his shock and loss at Cummings’ death.
Identifying as a transgender man he stated, “Whoever gets this seat must fight tooth and nail to beat back the administration’s wicked attempts to relegate trans people out of existence and to roll back 50 years of progress for the LGBTQ+ community.”
While declining to endorse any particular candidate, Moise did say he would like to see a woman fill the seat “as we currently have no women serving from Maryland in Congress.”
As a final nod to Cummings’ legacy, he added, “I hope the person who wins that seat realizes how much is at stake for our community and all marginalized communities in Maryland.”