The longtime policy consultant joins a crowded field vying to represent a district where her last name is revered. Among her competitors is former congressman and NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume — a longtime friend of her husband’s and, like him, one of Baltimore’s favorite sons.
Rockeymoore Cummings said she plans to focus her campaign on improving education, increasing access to healthcare through universal healthcare and ensuring economic security.
“We’ve got to make sure we get rid of the lopsided economic development that leads to [thriving] neighborhoods on one side of town and depressed and dirty communities on another side of town,” she said. “We’ve got to get rid of the educational disparities that provide opportunity for some, but not for too many young people who are being left behind.”
Rockeymoore Cummings told supporters she plans to undergo a double mastectomy on Friday. The surgery will help prevent breast cancer, which her mother died from in 2015 and her sister was diagnosed with last year.
She said she will spend the two to four weeks of recovery “laser-focused” on her campaign, working on social media and fundraising.
In December, she won a rare contested battle to lead the state Democratic Party, ousting Kathleen Matthews, who was backed by the party establishment. She said she was motivated to run after Democrats lost the 2018 gubernatorial election, with Gov. Larry Hogan becoming only the second Republican governor ever reelected in Maryland.
“We have a structural problem when it comes to the top of the ticket,” she said then. “And that structural problem will create a downward spiral for our party if we don’t fix it now.”
Her career has been mostly based in Washington, including as chief of staff to congressman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.). She worked as a senior resident scholar for health and income security at the National Urban League and as the vice president of research and programs at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. In 2005, she started Global Policy Solutions, a policy consulting firm.
A conservative watchdog organization in May filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, alleging that there is insufficient separation between the consulting firm and a nonprofit organization that Rockeymoore Cummings started more recently. She dismissed the complaint as politically motivated.
As party chair, Rockeymoore Cummings focused on boosting Democrats in rural areas where Republicans are dominant, as well as in traditional Democratic strongholds. She ruffled some feathers by taking sides in a bitter fight over who should become speaker of Maryland’s majority-Democratic House of Delegates, and she has angered state Republican leaders by launching attacks on Hogan.
She resigned the party chair position Monday night to clear the way for her congressional run. State Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City), who had been party vice chair, became interim chair.
So far, six Democrats and three Republicans have filed to seek the 7th District seat, which includes parts of Baltimore City and Baltimore and Howard counties. In addition to Mfume, state Del. Talmadge Branch (D-Baltimore City), who serves as House majority whip, has said he intends to run. State Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City) has scheduled an announcement next week.
Asked Tuesday why she would be a better choice than those elected officials, Rockeymoore Cummings said: “This is about the future and not the past. It is also about leadership, having the upmost integrity and doing what the people need and that means listening carefully. . . And I think I’m best positioned to do that.”
The filing deadline is Nov. 20. The winner of the Feb. 4 Democratic primary will be heavily favored in the April 28 special election.
Jenna Portnoy contributed to this report.