7th Congressional District

Cummings Takes Centrist View In Run for Seventh House Term

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings has held his seat in the House for six terms.
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings has held his seat in the House for six terms. (Photo Courtesy Of Elijah E. Cummings)
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SOURCE: | The Washington Post - February 01, 2008
By Mary Otto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 1, 2008

Maryland's 7th Congressional District spans diverse worlds. U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings argues that he is able to bridge those differences as he runs for reelection for what most consider a safe seat.

The district encompasses historically black Democratic neighborhoods of Baltimore, where almost one-third of the children are growing up poor. The district also includes affluent, liberal-leaning suburbs in Howard County, where the same proportion of families make more than $100,000.

Cummings, who seeks a seventh term, faces Charles Ulysses Smith, 57, a Baltimore neighborhood activist, in the Feb. 12 Democratic primary.

"People on welfare and [in] $5 million and $6 million houses" is the way Cummings summarizes his constituency. He said he remains comfortable with the range of voters he represents. "I'm somewhere in the middle."

He said he draws inspiration for his place in the middle from late Minnesota Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, who wrote that political centrism should reflect "the issues that are important to Americans and what they hope for."

"Affordable child care, good education," Cummings said. "Those go to the center of people's lives."

Cummings, 57, grew up in a poor family in Baltimore, attended Howard University and went on to receive a law degree from the University of Maryland. He served 14 years in the House of Delegates. In 1996, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election after the resignation of Kweisi Mfume, who left Congress to become president of the NAACP.

Since then, Cummings has been easily reelected. He won his last race, in 2006, unopposed.

His challenger, Smith, who has unsuccessfully sought statewide office several times, also ran in the 2002 Democratic primary for the 7th District seat against Cummings, getting 2.3 percent of the vote to 89.3 percent for Cummings.

Two others are also facing off in this year's GOP primary for the 7th District seat.

Ray Bly, 58, of Jessup, who operates a small appliance and car repair business, has published an online autobiography, "Born, Screwed in the U.S.A." Dentist Michael Hargadon, 56, of Woodstock, said recently that Cummings would be hard to defeat.

The race "is pretty much socked in," said Hargadon, who ran as a write-in candidate for lieutenant governor in the last election. He said he decided to run for Congress so 7th District voters have a choice. "If you can't fill the two slots, you don't have a right to complain," he said.

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