COLLEGE PARK – Tony Salazar believes in the two-party system, and he hopes to see a Republican step forward to challenge Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, in 2006.
But he says it is not likely to be him.
Salazar, who ran unsuccessfully against Cummings in 2004, said recently that he is considering a run instead for an open seat on the Howard County Council next year.
“The equation from last time around has changed significantly in Maryland,” Salazar said. “There’s another opportunity available on the county level, and I’m considering that instead.”
Matthew Crenson, professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, said is it not surprising that Salazar might not run again. The Republican won less than 27 percent of the vote against Cummings — and Salazar had one of the strongest finishes against the Democrat, who has handily won re-election since he was first elected to the 7th District seat in 1996.
“Cummings has a strong base of support in his district, as well as the bank account to finance a strong campaign,” Crenson said.
Cummings had more than $163,000 in campaign funds as of June 30, according to his latest report to the Federal Election Commission. For the same period, Salazar reported a $10,200 debt and $2,275.42 in the bank.
Maryland Republican Party spokeswoman Audra Miller praised Salazar’s efforts.
“He ran a good race (in 2004) and he would make an honorable public servant,” she said.
Miller said she did not yet know which Republican would oppose Cummings in 2006, noting that the election was still far in the future. But she said the party would put up a challenger.
“We seek a candidate with positive solutions to today’s issues that would represent their district . . . well in Congress,” Miller said. She said the candidate should have an interest in good policy and fiscal responsibility and be willing to work across party lines.
A Cummings campaign adviser said the incumbent would not take his 2006 race for granted, despite his past successes.
“Congressman Cummings seeks to earn the continued support of the voters every day,” said the adviser, Mike Christianson. He also said that Cummings would “address the issues and run hard and stay in touch with the voters.”
Christianson spoke highly of Salazar, saying he “ran a pretty clean campaign.”
“We have respect for Mr. Salazar,” Christianson said.
Salazar, pointing to the number of Howard County precincts he won in his race against Cummings, said he is considering a bid for the Howard County Council seat now held by Chris Merdon. But he hopes another Republican will step forward to challenge Cummings next year in his stead.
“Last time, we sure made Mr. Cummings run real hard,” Salazar said. “I’d like to see somebody else step up and give it a shot again.”
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