Rep. Elijah Cummings (D)
Maryland 7th District
At the junction of North and South, Baltimore is a product of both European immigration and the migration of African-Americans from the South. Its black community has a rich history. The Afro-American newspaper has been published here for more than 100 years, and there was once a black symphony orchestra. Eubie Blake, one of the founders of ragtime music, grew up here and now has a museum in his honor on Charles Street. Jazz great Billie Holliday was born here, as was Cab Calloway, the 1930s and 1940s big band leader, and Thurgood Marshall, the country’s first African-American Supreme Court justice. Near downtown on the west side is the childhood home of slugger Babe Ruth and the home of writer H.L. Mencken. For years, this side of town had a biracial, bipartisan politics in which Democrats like Gov. Albert Ritchie and Republicans such as Gov. Theodore McKeldin competed zestfully for black and white votes. Baltimore has been a black majority city since the late 1970s, and most of its west-side neighborhoods are heavily African-American.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In the 1990s, Baltimore was hit by a terrible crime wave, with open drug markets on both the west and east sides. Democratic Mayor Martin O’Malley, elected in 1999, promised to build “a new Baltimore” with zero tolerance of crime; he went on to win the governorship in 2006. But many of the city’s problems remained, with almost 20% of the city’s residential areas classified as distressed.
Maryland’s 7th Congressional District includes most of Baltimore’s west side, plus the heavily African-American suburbs west of the city and extending to Catonsville along the old Baltimore National Pike. It also includes most of suburban Howard County. About 40% of the district’s votes are cast in Baltimore City’s precincts, largely north of Pratt Street, in places like Druid Heights; Harlem Park; Charles Village, which is home to Johns Hopkins University and poverty-stricken Sandtown-Winchester. Howard County is quite a different area. It grew 32% in the 1990s, and its largest community, Columbia, is a planned town that attracts a culturally liberal population. It tends to vote Democratic, and in 2004 cast 13% of the district’s votes. There is a sharp socioeconomic contrast between these two parts of the district. Howard County is predominately white, has the third-highest median household income of all counties in the nation, and 4% of children under age 5 live in poverty. In Baltimore City, only 4 % of households earn more than $100,000 and 40% of children are poor.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D)
Elected: April 1996, 7th full term.
Born: Jan. 18, 1951, Baltimore .
Education: Howard U., B.S. 1973, U. of MD, J.D. 1976.
Family: Married (Maya Rockeymoore).
Elected office: MD House of Delegates, 1982–96, Speaker pro tem, 1995–96.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1976–96.
The congressman from the 7th District is Elijah Cummings, who won a 1996 special election after Kweisi Mfume resigned to become president of the NAACP. Cummings is the son of sharecroppers from South Carolina who moved north for a better life for their seven children. He grew up in Baltimore, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University, and then got a law degree from the University of Maryland. He practiced law for a time in Baltimore, and then in 1982, at age 31, he ran successfully for the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served 16 years and rose through the ranks to become speaker pro tem. When he ran for the U.S. House, his main competition was the Rev. Frank Reid III, stepbrother of Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who raised $255,000. Cummings had support from local businesses and community-development organizations, and raised $450,000. He won with 37% of the vote to 24% for Reid. He has not been seriously challenged in a primary or general election since then.
|Elijah Cummings (D)||227,379||(80%)||($684,420)|
|Michael Hargadon (R)||53,147||(19%)||($23,702)|
|Elijah Cummings (D)||98,027||(93%)|
|Charles Smith (D)||7,322||(7%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (73%), 2002 (74%), 2000 (87%), 1998 (86%), 1996 (83%), 1996 (81%)
Cummings lives in troubled west Baltimore, where he is a crusader against drug abuse and for stricter gun control. His voting record has been mostly liberal, but he has a pragmatic streak that allows him to work with Republicans in legislative coalitions. When the GOP controlled the House, he worked with Indiana conservative Republican Mark Souder to reauthorize the White House drug control office and to establish federal policy to combat rapidly multiplying methamphetamine labs. Once Democrats won the majority, he became chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee at Transportation and Infrastructure, a useful niche for his port-dependent district and an opportunity for him to play a role in the debate on homeland security.
On the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he worked closely with Democratic Chairman Henry Waxman of California on the investigation of performance-enhancing steroids in baseball, and emphasized the detrimental effect steroid use was having on young people who look up to successful athletes. “You’re one of my heroes, but it’s hard to believe you, sir,” Cummings told former star pitcher Roger Clemens at a 2008 hearing. When Waxman in November 2008 was chosen to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee, some Democrats urged Cummings to challenge the more senior Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., to replace Waxman as chairman of Oversight. But Cummings did not run, partly to avoid conflict within the seniority-sensitive Congressional Black Caucus, an influential group that Cummings once chaired. When Cummings led the CBC in 2003 and 2004, he spoke out on issues ranging from the presidential succession crisis in Haiti to the appointment of federal judges.
Cummings usually wins re-election by landslide margins, and in 2006 he was unopposed. He backed Mfume in the Democratic primary for the open Senate seat that year, and then played a constructive role in coalescing Democrats behind the eventual nominee, former Rep. Ben Cardin. In 2007, he bucked most of the Maryland Democratic establishment by announcing his early support of Barack Obama in the Democratic primary. In October 2008, he cited telephone calls from Obama in explaining why he reversed his initial opposition to the $700 billion bailout of the financial industry to a vote in favor of the bill. Cummings, who had been highly critical of the role of Wall Street managers in the financial collapse, expressed outrage when the media reported that officials of insurance giant AIG celebrated the bailout with a lavish golf and spa vacation at a California beach resort. He said, “They were getting their manicures, their facials, their pedicures and their massages while American people were footing the bill!”