BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Voters in parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County will take to the polls Tuesday to narrow down a field of dozens of candidates seeking to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The primary election is the only race on the ballot Tuesday, so turnout is key for candidates.
Eight Republicans and 24 Democrats are seeking the seat left vacant by Cummings' death last October, including his widow Maya Rockeymoore Cummings and the man Cummings replaced in Congress: Kweisi Mfume.
"When I left the Congress in order for Elijah to run 20 years ago, it was a special election, so in this instance, we're hoping, praying, and asking for the votes of people throughout the district," Mfume said.
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Harry Spikes, who worked for Cummings for 15 years, is also running to replace his former boss.
"I want people to realize there is no learning curve for me in this race," he said.
Cummings endorsed several down-ballot candidates over the years who are now running for his seat, including Ellicott City physician Dr. Terri Hill.
Hill has been a state delegate for the past five years.
"I'm bringing those two things together and I think that's what speaks to the particular moment we're in from a policy standpoint," she said.
If elected, Hill said addiction issues would be among her first bills in Washington.
"It's all about voter turnout, particularly when we've had such a short run-up to the election," she said.
State Senator Jill Carter pointed to the state's all-male congressional delegation as a distinguishing factor for her.
"We need a woman, but we need a woman rooted in our community and a woman we can trust," she said.
Newcomer Michael Higginbotham is one of the few candidates who has run television ads trying to reach voters. Delegate Talmadge Branch and others are trying to connect with voters using ads on social media.
While the district is largely Democratic, several Republican candidates said they're hopeful voters will look past party affiliation and vote for the person they believe is most qualified.
Inside one of her two campaign headquarters, community activist and longtime district resident Reba Hawkins made one final push Monday before the votes are cast.
"I know what this city needs and I want to ensure that those dollars that are earmarked specifically for the needs of this district are met and are actually placed to the areas in which they've been earmarked," she said.
While Democrats campaign on Cummings' legacy, Republican James Arnold, who has never held public office, said it's time for a change.
"I bring a totally different perspective to this campaign and my perspective simply as a small business owner, I deal with problems every day," he said.
Non-profit founder Kimberly Klacik already has national recognition: her social media posts of trash in west Baltimore last year went viral, catching the attention of President Trump. That led to a feud between Trump, Cummings and other leaders who rushed to the city's defense.
"I've been talking to people and a lot of people do want a change," Klacik said. "I feel like if I'm already there, why not knock on some doors, introduce myself and say 'Hey, I think I can offer some change?'"
Other Republican candidates include Liz Matory who was the Republican candidate for Maryland's second congressional district in 2018; William Newton, who ran for the same seat two years ago; Army veteran Ray Bly and Baltimore native Christopher Anderson.
After Tuesday's primary election, voters in the 7th district will also cast ballots for the special general election on April 28. the winner of that election will serve the remaining eight months of Cummings' term.
Since many schools will serve as polling places, public schools in Baltimore and Howard counties will be closed. In Baltimore, dozens of schools in the 7th congressional district will be closed. Click here for a full list.
WJZ reporters Paul Gessler, Rachel Menitoff and Annie Rose Ramos contributed to this report.
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