A veteran Senate campaign fundraiser is now working for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), a potential sign that he will run for higher office.
Ashley Martens, who worked for Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) in past campaigns, is now doing fundraising for Cummings. She is organizing a fundraiser next month at a Nationals-Orioles game in Washington, D.C., asking for $1,000 to $5,000 contributions to Cummings’s political action committee.
Cummings is not known as a particularly large fundraiser. However, he has significantly more money in his campaign account than Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.), one of two Democratic candidates currently running to replace retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
A poll released by Edwards’s campaign Tuesday showed Cummings is far more popular than either Edwards or her primary rival, Rep. Chris Van Hollen. About 65 percent of survey respondents had a favorable view of the congressman — 20 points higher than Edwards or Van Hollen.
There will also be a competitive mayoral primary in Baltimore the same date as the Senate primary, which would likely help Cummings if he decided to run for the Senate.
A Cummings candidacy might in return give a boost to a city that is currently struggling both politically and economically. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has canceled plans for a much-desired metrorail line through the city and withheld $11 million in education funding. His top housing official last week suggested rolling back lead-paint laws because, he said, mothers might be intentionally poisoning their children to get free housing.
Neither of the current Democratic candidates hoping to replace Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) has roots in Baltimore, though both have been courting politicians and activists in the city. Edwards represents Prince George’s County; Van Hollen comes from Montgomery County. Cummings has spend his life in the city of Baltimore, and he was a powerful presence during protests over the death of Freddie Gray earlier this summer.
“We feel like Baltimore has something to add to the state and is often or currently perceived as not healthy, which may or may not be true,” said the Rev. Glenna Huber, co-chairwoman of the community organization Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD). “We do need help in being restored to full health, and that health could come from a strong presence on the federal level.”
Cummings has not made clear to national Democrats that he is not running, but neither has he given any indication that he plans to do so. Should he run for Senate, he would be forced to give up his seat in the House, where he has a powerful post as ranking member on the House Oversight Committee.
“A lot of people would be excited to see him get in the race,” said Richard Hall, executive director of Baltimore’s nonprofit Citizens Planning and Housing Association. “But . . . there would be a big hole to fill in the House of Representatives with him leaving.”
Former congressman Tom Davis of Virginia, a Republican who helped organize the fundraiser on behalf of Deloitte Consulting, has told attendees who support Van Hollen that the funds are for Cummings’s House account, not a Senate campaign.
Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersburger (D), who represents a small part of Baltimore and much of the surrounding suburbs, is considering his own Senate bid. He will make a decision by the end of September, he said.
“I think we were all pretty concerned when the governor canceled the Red Line and then didn’t come back with any type of project, especially with the needs in the Baltimore region,” said Ruppersburger. While he argued that all of the state’s elected officials should be working together for mutual good, he said he would bring a Baltimore perspective to the race: “I’m a diehard Ravens fan, not a Redskins fan.”