COLLEGE PARK – No one has yet filed to challenge Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, for his 7th District seat.
Democrats don’t think that is going to change.
“I think Republicans see the writing on the wall there,” said Travis Tazelaar, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party. “Cummings has served his district very well and I don’t see a real change to that.”
Cathy Watts, acting executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said it is early yet and there is plenty of time for someone to file against Cummings. But she would not comment on a Republican’s chances of beating Cummings.
In addition to serving his district well, as Tazelaar claimed, the seven-term incumbent has handily won re-election with no less than 73 percent of the vote and he had amassed a campaign war chest of more than $648,000 as of June 30, the most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission.
The Baltimore native raised $242,664 this year, but has spent more than $250,000, according to his FEC report.
Tony Salazar, the unsuccessful 2004 GOP challenger to Cummings, conceded that any challenger has his work cut out for him.
“Part of it is fundraising. He (Cummings) gets a lot of support from unions and PACs and the like,” Salazar said. “Two, is that he’s obviously very active in his community and is well-known there, so that presents a lot of problems for anyone attempting to overtake him.”
Lorenzo Morris, a professor of political science at Howard University, agreed that Cummings’ presence in the community is a factor.
“He’s known to be quite active in his district,” Morris said. “It’s understandable that he has spent that much because he is servicing the largest (population) district in the state.”
Cummings’ largest expenses this year included a $95,000 donation to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a $34,255 hall rental at the Washington Hyatt Regency in January, according to OpenSecrets.org, a non-profit organization that traces money in politics.
Other than that, Cummings’ disbursements include a mixture of donations to other Democrats, payroll fees, taxes and other small expenses.
Of the Maryland incumbents likely running for re-election to the House next year, only Reps. Christopher Van Hollen, D-Kensington, and Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, amassed and spent more money this year. Neither of them has a challenger yet.
But Cummings is not spending all his time raising money, said Mike Christianson, counsel to Cummings’ campaign and a friend for 36 years. Because of his popularity, he has the luxury of not having to campaign for dollars, which gives him more time to make substantive change for his constituency.
“Any hour a member of Congress is spending on raising money is not spent on solving issues in the district,” Christianson said.
“He definitely doesn’t want to be sitting around with a bunch of people who pay $250 for a chicken dinner and a speech, when he could be out doing work in the street,” Christianson said.
Over the last year, Cummings has been very active with President Obama’s campaign, health care reform and ensuring better conditions for unions, said Christianson.
Cummings’ largest donors for the campaign have been lawyers, transportation firms and unions, according to opensecrets.org. Cummings serves on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform as well as the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“Unions are typically the biggest supporters for Democrats,” Morris said. “Lawyers represent them, so it’s only natural that they fall next in line.”
Barring a scandal, Cummings will likely hold the 7th District seat for as long as he wants to, said Morris. The district covers parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County.
But Salazar, whose 26 percent of the vote in 2004 was the most ever earned by a Cummings challenger, said he will “never say never” about the possibility of someone unseating the popular incumbent.
“There will be a redistricting soon, so we’ll see,” he said.