WASHINGTON – Rep. Elijah Cummings has raised only a fraction of his campaign funds from the Howard County constituents who were added to his 7th District in the last redistricting, according to new campaign filings.
The Baltimore Democrat’s latest report to the Federal Election Commission showed that he had raised more than $237,000 by June 30 of this year. More than $108,000 of that was from individuals, but a check of the donor’s ZIP codes showed that just under $13,000 came from his new constituents.
But political analysts downplayed the pattern of giving, saying there is little chance the five-term congressman will be unseated next year.
“Redistricting should have little impact on congressman Elijah Cummings’ 2004 re-election chances,” said Tom Schaller, a political science professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Maryland’s 7th District was reconstituted in 2000, adding parts of Howard County in addition to Cummings’ old stomping grounds in Baltimore County and Baltimore City. The shift added more whites to Cummings’ district, among other changes, but Schaller said that does not mean challengers will have any more success in the future.
“The best time to beat an incumbent is the first race after redistricting,” he said. “Cummings won in 2002, and should win comfortably again in 2004.”
Cummings’ latest FEC report showed that he had a little less than $285,000 on hand as of June 30 — putting him in the middle of the eight-member Maryland congressional delegation when it comes to the size of their campaign bank accounts.
“The fact that Cummings is not raising as much as other incumbents is not a signal of weakness. In fact, it’s usually a signal that the election will (be) uncompetitive,” Schaller said. “The only way Cummings loses the seat is if a strong Democrat figures out a way to beat him in the primary.”
So far, Cummings’ only challenger is Democrat Charles C. McPeek Sr., who finished the 2002 Democratic primary with just 1.9 percent of the vote. McPeek’s FEC filing reported no contributions and a little more than $10,000 in loans, though an official with the commission said that may be normal for some candidates at this point in the race.
Cummings was first elected to the seat in a special election in 1996 and has been re-elected by comfortable margins ever since. In addition to his committee assignments in Washington, he currently serves as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Cummings’ FEC filing shows that he has donors from across the country. Supporters from outside the district — from as far away as Chicago, Texas and South Carolina — gave more and gave in higher numbers than those in the new part of Cummings’ district.
The Cummings for Congress Campaign Committee refused to comment on the congressman’s strategy for courting Howard County votes. But one contributor said that she had seen him at a number of campaign events in the county and didn’t need to be courted.
“I have found him to be a hard worker, committed and accessible,” said Lavarne Burton, one of fewer than 20 Howard County contributors, of her reasons for supporting the congressman.