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Odd Man In

Incumbent Elijah Cummings Faces No Opposition In Race For 7th Congressional District

Tom Chalkley

By Anna Ditkoff | Posted 7/19/2006

The big story in the 7th Congressional District race is that there isn't one.

Six-term Congressman Elijah Cummings is running completely unopposed. There are no other Democrats in the race, not a single Republican. Even the Green Party, which originally had a candidate filed in the race, has decided to sit this one out.

Cummings won his seat in the district, which now spans parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County, in 1996. He beat out more than two dozen other Democrats in that race. Since then Cummings has built a reputation for himself in Maryland and Washington as a politician to be reckoned with. He sits on the House Government Reform Committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Joint Economic Committee, as well as a number of subcommittees and task forces. He has also served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Still, Cummings was surprise by the lack of a challenger.

"I always expect to have some opposition, always," he says. "I've never in 25 years not had any. It's very humbling, it really is. But I tell my staff we campaign every day by our work, the work that we do in service to our constituents and the things that we try to get done in Washington."

In the eyes of Anthony McCarthy, a Democratic candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in the 44th District, it's statements like that that make Cummings so seemingly invincible.

"Elijah Cummings has mastered the art of constituent services and...he's the darling of African-American Baltimore," McCarthy says. "He shows up at all the children's graduations, he preaches in their churches, he shows up at the ribbon cuttings. He understands retail politics, but he's also mastered the art of being a national African-American leader."

Though no Democratic or Republican challengers even filed in the race, Charm City Green Party co-founder Brandy Baker was originally prepared to run against Cummings. According to Myles Hoenig, Baker's husband and the campaign manager for Green gubernatorial candidate Ed Boyd, Baker was going to run her campaign based on Cummings' stance on the war in Iraq. "He has a pro-occupation record, and we're a party against this war," Hoenig says.

But Baker withdrew on May 15 to run in the state House's 43rd District instead. "The reason she dropped out of the race is to...run as a state delegate and take on the issue of the General Assembly selling us out to BG&E," Hoenig says.

The Greens did not replace Baker because they didn't want to spread the party's limited resources too thin.

"There are about 500 races up for grabs this year," says Patsy Allen, co-chair of the Maryland Green Party. "It's a huge number in Maryland, and what we've done is put candidates where we hope they will be most effective. Many of us feel that we're more likely to make a big impact in a local race than in a national race."

The Republican Party is similarly trying to conserve its energy: "From a state party perspective, our priorities are re-electing Governor Ehrlich, making sure Michael Steele is the next United States Senator of Maryland, and defeating the veto-proof majority of the Democrats in the General Assembly," says Maryland Republican Party spokeswoman Audra Miller.

This is good news for the Democratic Party, which can focus its finances and attention on other races and use Cummings' popularity to stump for other candidates.

"It gives me more time to work for the Democrats and help others get elected," Cummings says. "I'll be working just as hard for the Democratic ticket and making sure that we maintain the state Senate and the state House of Delegates and that we regain the governorship and also have a Democrat replacing Paul Sarbanes and Joe Curran. So that's what I'll be doing."

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