Tag Archives: Elijah Cummings

Cummings Filed for Reelection this Morning

CummingsScreenshot from Maryland State Board of Elections

As of 10am this morning, the Maryland State Board of Elections reports that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-7) has filed for reelection. Cummings, a respected senior representative, had considered running for the U.S. Senate. He would have been a formidable candidate.

Despite his late decision, a Cummings bid seemed increasingly unlikely as time passed and other candidates raised money, campaigned and organized. His decision will free up people who had waited and would have supported Cummings to join the Edwards or Van Hollen camps.

Rep. Cummings would have had to give up his position as the leading Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee where he made a name for himself in defending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration against the endless highly partisan Benghazi investigations.

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Elijah for Senate?

Elijah-Cummings-AP-Images-hearing

A US Senate race between Rep. Elijah Cummings and Rep. Chris Van Hollen would be an epic and historic race to behold, and might  reduce Donna Edwards–who has the least seniority of the three and is the weakest fundraiser by far–to the role of spoiler.

A Regional Candidate
Congressmen Cummings could be expected to carry the City of Baltimore by a bone crushingly large margin. A similar margin could be expected in suburban Howard County, where he is popular. Elijah would also likely win Baltimore County–he already represents a large swath of it.

Elijah might also challenge hometown heroine Donna Edwards in Prince George’s County. Many local leaders are not close with Rep. Edwards and might lend their support to Rep. Cummings. Regardless, if Reps. Van Hollen and Edwards split the suburban DC vote, Rep. Cummings could emerge as victor based on unified support in the 410 area code.

Overlap
No question about it, if Elijah enters the race, he causes serious problems for Donna Edwards. She would no longer be able to hope to claim a base of African American voters in Baltimore City and would face serious competition in her own home base of Prince George’s.

At the outset, a split black field would seem to help CVH. But natural areas of expansions outside of Montgomery for Chris from Ellicott City to Towson would be cut off. On the whole, I’d see Elijah’s entry into the race as a win for Chris, but I think he’s a lot more likely to lose to Elijah than Donna.

 

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Donna Edwards for Senate?

Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, NC

Addressing the Democratic National Convention

As Sen. Barbara Mikulski announces her retirement, people aspiring to win the seat are already eying not just it but each other. Here is a first look at one potential candidate who could be a top contender: Donna Edwards

Progressive Backing

The Fourth District representative brings a lot to her candidacy. With firm backing from national and local progressives (read: left-wing Democrats), she unseated Rep. Al Wynn in 2008. Del. David Moon sent out an email yesterday from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee calling for her to run. (Clarification: David was forwarding the email so people could see it and has not endorsed any candidate.)

Her potential to attract both progressive and African-American voters–very large groups in any statewide Democratic primary–makes her a formidable candidate. Thanks to redistricting, she has represented much of Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties.

These are very big advantages. Unlike Anthony Brown, she has real potential to fire up the left-wing Democratic party base. People who would like to see a woman take Barbara Mikulski’s seat may well also be inspired to support Edwards. In short, there is a real market for a candidate with Edwards’ political profile.

Money

Edwards is not popular with the Democratic establishment but I don’t really see that as a barrier. A much bigger problem is whether she can raise the money needed for a Senate bid. She currently has just $30,000 in her congressional campaign account.

This is not an insurmountable barrier for a Member of Congress who will gain backing from various progressive groups, . But Edwards will have to put in serious phone time as she will face better fundraisers and is starting well behind many other potential candidates.

Problems with Jewish and Pro-Israel Voters?

She may also sail into choppy waters with Jewish and pro-Israel voters. Unhappiness with her record on Israel was one factor that helped propel forward a near challenge by Glenn Ivey in 2012. J Street has strongly supported Edwards but even they criticized her fundraiser with the pro-Palestinian New Policy PAC.

The fundraiser touted that she was one of only 25 representatives to vote against a House resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself” in the Gaza conflict. Actions like these will give pause to voters who have no affection for Benjamin Netanyahu and think Barack Obama is fine on Israel but also do not want someone they perceive as unsympathetic to Israel representing them.

Maryland has one of the highest proportion of Jewish voters in the nation. Jewish Americans tend to vote a high rates and will, like African Americans, figure disproportionately in any statewide Democratic primary. Democrats may also fear that this record could harm her in the general election.

Edwards has received support in the past from some prominent local Jewish leaders. But will it be enough for her to brush these problems aside?

Record

Rep. Edwards has served in Congress for six years, and Democrats have been in the minority but all for the first two years of her service. As a result, an Edwards campaign will have to focus more on her positions than her accomplishments, as do her congressional campaign and official congressional websites.

Overlap with Other Candidates

Maryland does not hold runoffs so whoever wins the primary wins the nomination. The supply of candidates will influence the outcome as candidates who have more competitors who can eat into their vote will suffer. This is not a problem peculiar to Donna Edwards–all candidates will worry about this issue. But who would eat into her likely potential voters?

African-American candidates, especially from the Baltimore area like Rep. Elijah Cummings or Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, could make it hard for her to rack up votes there. Edwards and former Del. Heather Mizeur would compete for the same hard-left progressives, though I tend to believe Edwards would crowd Mizeur out. More seriously, Rep. Chris Van Hollen presents challenges for Edwards in Montgomery–a natural potential base for her support.

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Rorschach Map of Incumbent Desires

Much has been made of the, ahem, “creative” boundaries of Maryland’s current congressional districts. A previous post provided more detailed maps that show the true artistry of the districts. But here is a statewide view that probably doesn’t do it full justice:

CDMDMaryland’s Current Congressional District Map

Many cite the non-compact boundaries as evidence of partisanship. Certainly, the 6th District was reconfigured to aid Democrats, who picked up the seat in 2012. However, Democrats did not have to draw these non-compact districts to gain a 7-1 majority in place of the previous 6-2 split. The following plan has seven districts that Obama won by 15% or more in 2008:

Obama15ptsAlternative Congressional Plan 1

While probably not the most compact plan that could be drawn, it also is clearly much more compact than the enacted plan. Beyond containing seven very Democratic districts, it also still contains two districts that are over 50% black in voting-age population.

A map that gave Democrats at least a 10% advantage in seven districts, again as measured by support for Obama in 2008, could be made even more compact and violate fewer county boundaries:

Obama10ptsAlternative Congressional District Plan 2

In this version, District 8 doesn’t reach the Pennsylvania border or take in any portion of Carroll County, which is no longer split. The Fourth District is also entirely within Prince George’s. Montgomery County has only two districts instead of three.

So why did the Democrats choose to adopt a plan with such meandering districts instead of a simpler version? According to many different sources, the answer lies in the desire to favor the preferences of certain incumbents, even when they were highly idiosyncratic and would not alter their reelection chances.

(1) Rep. Steny Hoyer insisted on continuing to represent UMD College Park, which he has represented since entering Congress. (Love the Turtle!) However, College Park is at the northwestern end of Prince George’s. Accommodating the desires of this powerful representative forced many other changes to plan.

For example, the 4th couldn’t continue to go into Montgomery if the 6th was to take in significant portions of that County, so the 4th now crawls around the edge of Prince George’s to enable it to scoop up Republican voters in Anne Arundel.

(2) Similarly, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger sits on the intelligence committee and wanted to represent both Fort Meade and the Aberdeen Proving Ground. (Couldn’t we just buy him his own spy cam?) Even more creativity ensued as these two facilities lies at the opposite ends of the Baltimore region

(3) Rep. Elijah Cummings did not want to represent Carroll County, throwing yet another complication into the mix. Carroll is very Republican but would have easily been swamped by Cummings’ Baltimore base. So now Rep. Chris Van Hollen represents parts of Carroll County.

(4) Rep. John Sarbanes felt strongly that he wanted to continue to represent Annapolis, adding another layer of complexity into the plan’s requirements. Drafting a plan to satisfied this demand along with Ruppersberger’s helps explain how the 2nd and 3rd districts took on even more convoluted shapes.

(5) Complicating it all further was that so several representatives–Cummings, Harris, Ruppersberger, and Sarbanes–live with a small area near Baltimore. While living in the district is not required–just ask John Delaney–most prefer to do it.

And that’s how we ended up with this:

CD3

By the way, there is no legal impediment to gerrymandering for incumbents. Indeed, courts have cited it as a legitimate rationale for states to craft plans in a particular manner.

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