Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: April 1996, 10th full term.

Born: January 18, 1951, Baltimore, MD

Home: Baltimore, MD

Education: Howard U., B.S. 1973, U. of MD, J.D. 1976

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1976–96.

Ethnicity: Black/African American

Religion: Baptist

Family: Married (Maya Rockeymoore) , 1 child (1 from previous marriage)

Democrat Elijah Cummings, who came to Congress in a 1996 special election, is a liberal who can be blunt in defending his party. As the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he parries with Republicans on investigations of the Obama administration that Cummings regularly dismisses as “witch hunts.”

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, where as an 11-year-old he was one of the first children to integrate a park's swimming pool. “People were throwing bottles, rocks, and screaming, calling us everything but a child of God,” he recalled to Baltimore magazine. He 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.

He ran for the U.S. House after Kweisi Mfume resigned to become president of the NAACP. Cummings 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.

Cummings lives in troubled west Baltimore, and he is a crusader against drug abuse, for stricter gun control, and for help for low-income homeowners. In February 2015, he teamed with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on a "Middle Class Prosperity Project," a series of public events aimed at trying to bolster their party's and President Obama's image with the middle class. "Families might have survived as their incomes flattened, except for one hard fact: the costs of basic needs like housing, education and child care exploded," the lawmakers wrote in a USA Today op-ed.

Cummings publicly battled with Edward DeMarco, overseer of government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for months in 2011 and 2012 over debt reduction for homeowners struggling to pay mortgages. He also is a staunch defender of labor unions, which have been his top source of campaign funds throughout his career. In the fall campaign season of 2010, when some Democrats were de-emphasizing their support of the health care overhaul, Cummings said he was doing just the opposite. “I know the media wants us to apologize for being Democrats,” he said at one rally. “They want us to apologize for health care. Why? Because the Democratic Party is the humane party.”

He is close to Obama, having bucked most of the Maryland Democratic establishment in 2007 by announcing his early support for the then-Illinois senator in the Democratic primary. He called Obama “absolutely brilliant” in an August 2011 speech, and regularly took to cable TV to rip Republican Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential race. After Romney’s July trip to Europe in which he committed several widely publicized gaffes, Cummings declared Romney “not ready for prime time.”

On Oversight and Government Reform, Cummings has forcefully pushed back against the GOP on subpoena powers, Democrats’ access to records, and numerous other matters. When Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz took over the committee's chairmanship in January 2015, he promised that he would work with Democrats more cooperatively than his predecessor, California's volatile Darrell Issa. But at the panel's first meeting, Chaffetz pushed through a rules package that Cummings complained was "worse than the rules we had under Chairman Issa." Cummings and other Democrats tried and failed to roll back the chairman's ability to subpoena witnesses or documents without obtaining the prior consent of the ranking member, or putting the subpoena request to a vote of the full committee. 

Cummings' relationship with Issa also got off to a rocky start at the committee’s first organizational meeting in January 2011, when Issa deviated from tradition and proposed barring all opening statements from members to save time at hearings. When Cummings protested, Issa eventually relented, and complained to CNN in October that Cummings “is there to be a stopping, a stumbling block … to try to stop and help and protect the administration.” But the Democrat won respect from other GOP panel members. “It’s not about politics to him; he says what he believes,” South Carolina’s Trey Gowdy told The Hill newspaper. “And you can tell the ones who are saying it because it was in the memo they got that morning and you can tell the ones who it’s coming from their soul. And with Mr. Cummings, it’s coming from his soul.”

The biggest flare-up on the committee in the 112th Congress (2011-12) came when GOP lawmakers voted in 2012 to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide information relating to “Operation Fast and Furious,” a botched effort to trace guns to drug cartels and smugglers that instead allowed firearms to cross the border into their hands. Cummings was among Holder’s chief defenders, saying the attorney general “acted honorably.” When a draft of the contempt citation was leaked to the news media, Cummings sent Issa an angry letter saying the move “suggests that you are more interested in perpetuating your partisan political feud in the press than in obtaining any specific substantive information.”

When Republicans subsequently went after the Internal Revenue Service for allegedly targeting conservative groups, Cummings found himself the subject of unwanted attention. Activist Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of the organizations True the Vote and the King Street Patriots, accused the congressman in February 2014 of seeking to intimidate her by asking questions that subjected her to repeated federal agencies' scrutiny. Cummings denied the allegations, saying he was just trying to determine if voting rights had been infringed.

And a month later, when Cummings spoke at an IRS hearing, Issa abruptly adjourned the session, ordering staffers to cut off the Democrat's microphone. The Congressional Black Caucus rose to Cummings' defense to demand that Issa be stripped of his chairmanship and publicly apologize. Issa did apologize to Cummings, who later compared Issa's tactics to those used in the 1950s by Communist-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Cummings got the Oversight ranking member slot in 2010 after the Republicans gained control of the House. Many Democrats worried that the top Democrat at the time, Edolphus Towns of New York, would not be a tough enough foil to the energetic and partisan Issa. Towns agreed to step aside, and Cummings took over the job after beating New York’s Carolyn Maloney by a 119-61 vote. Two years earlier, when California’s Henry Waxman was chosen to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee, some Democrats urged Cummings to challenge Towns 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 chaired in 2003 and 2004.

For all of his partisan rhetoric, Cummings also has a pragmatic streak that occasionally allows him to work with Republicans in legislative coalitions. He helped secure House passage in 2012 of the DATA Act, which requires federal agencies to publish spending information online in a searchable format. Cummings 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.

When Democrats won the majority in 2006, he became chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee at Transportation and Infrastructure, a useful niche for his port-dependent district. The House unanimously passed his bill in July 2009 to reform Coast Guard acquisition practices, and a year later he helped get an authorization bill for the agency into law that included some acquisition reforms as well as other changes. Even on Oversight, he took part in several bipartisan investigations in which he rebuked the administration for management deficiencies that led to a Secret Service prostitution scandal and a lavish General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas.

Cummings usually wins reelection 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. Cummings suffered a personal tragedy in June 2011, when his nephew, Christopher Cummings, was fatally shot near Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., where the young man was a student.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4741

(202) 225-3178

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2230
Washington, DC 20515-2007

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4741

(202) 225-3178

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2230
Washington, DC 20515-2007

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 685-9199

(410) 685-9399

1010 Park Avenue Suite 105
Baltimore, MD 21201-5600

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 685-9199

(410) 685-9399

1010 Park Avenue Suite 105
Baltimore, MD 21201-5600

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 719-8777

(410) 455-0110

754 Frederick Road
Catonsville, MD 21228-4504

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 719-8777

(410) 455-0110

754 Frederick Road
Catonsville, MD 21228-4504

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 465-8259

(410) 465-8740

8267 Main Street Room 102
Ellicott City, MD 21043-9903

DISTRICT OFFICE

(410) 465-8259

(410) 465-8740

8267 Main Street Room 102
Ellicott City, MD 21043-9903

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(410) 669-8400

2901 Druid Park Drive Suite 203
Baltimore, MD 21215-8185

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

2235 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Karen Kudelko
Policy Advisor

Acquisitions

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Aerospace

Courtney Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Agriculture

Appropriations

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Banking

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Budget

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Campaign

Vernon Simms
Chief of Staff

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Census

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Commerce

Vernon Simms
Chief of Staff

Congress

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Crime

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Disability

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Economics

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Harry Spikes
Deputy District Director

Amy Stratton
Special Assistant

Education

Philisha Lane
Staff Assistant

Energy

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Courtney Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Harry Spikes
Deputy District Director

Entertainment

Trudy Perkins
Deputy Chief of Staff; Communications Director

Environment

Courtney Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Family

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Finance

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Philisha Lane
Staff Assistant

Foreign

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Govt Ops

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Katie Malone
Special Assistant

Health

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Hope Williams
Special Assistant

Homeland Security

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Karen Kudelko
Policy Advisor

Housing

Harry Spikes
Deputy District Director

Deborah Perry
Special Assistant

Philisha Lane
Staff Assistant

Immigration

Karen Kudelko
Policy Advisor

Katie Malone
Special Assistant

Intelligence

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Internet

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Judiciary

Karen Kudelko
Policy Advisor

Diana Gibson
Staff Assistant

Labor

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Hope Williams
Special Assistant

Medicare

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Military

Katie Malone
Special Assistant

National Security

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Privacy

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Regulation

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Science

Courtney Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Seniors

Crystal Washington
Special Assistant

Small Business

Amy Stratton
Special Assistant

Social Security

Harry Spikes
Deputy District Director

Amy Stratton
Special Assistant

Tax

Crystal Washington
Special Assistant

Technology

Courtney Miller
Legislative Correspondent

Trade

Karen Kudelko
Policy Advisor

Transportation

Amy Stratton
Special Assistant

Francine McKinney
District Director; Special Projects; Community Outreach

fran.allen@mail.house.gov
(410) 685-9199

Veterans

Crystal Washington
Special Assistant

Welfare

Suzanne Owen
Legislative Director; Health Policy Advisor

Women

Karen Kudelko
Policy Advisor

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Elijah Cummings
Votes: 247,770
Percent: 76.62%
Frank Mirabile
Votes: 67,405
Percent: 20.84%
2012 PRIMARY
Elijah Cummings
Votes: 49,625
Percent: 92.83%
2010 GENERAL
Elijah Cummings
Votes: 152,669
Percent: 75.18%
Frank Mirabile
Votes: 46,375
Percent: 22.84%
2010 PRIMARY
Elijah Cummings
Votes: 59,649
Percent: 91.02%
Charles Smith
Votes: 5,884
Percent: 8.98%
2008 GENERAL
Elijah Cummings
Votes: 227,379
Percent: 79.5%
Michael Hargadon
Votes: 53,147
Percent: 18.58%
2008 PRIMARY
Elijah Cummings
Votes: 98,027
Percent: 93.05%
Charles Smith
Votes: 7,322
Percent: 6.95%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (75%), 2008 (80%), 2006 (100%), 2004 (73%), 2002 (74%), 2000 (87%), 1998 (86%), 1996 (83%), 1996 special (81%)

* Export counts will reset after 30 days. Please contact your Dedicated Advisor if you have reached your limit.

To order a print copy of the 2016 edition of the Almanac of American Politics, click here. For questions about print orders, call Columbia Books at 1-888-265-0600 ext 0266 or email customer service.

For questions about the digital Almanac, please contact your Dedicated Advisor or Membership@NationalJournal.com.

×