Maya Rockeymoore Cummings (Nate Pesce/Rockeymoore Cummings campaign)

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a policy consultant who is married to longtime U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), is launching a bid for Maryland governor, becoming the second woman and the third African American to join the crowded Democratic primary field.

"I truly believe Maryland is punching below its fighting weight," Rockeymoore Cummings, who is also a small-business owner, said in explaining her decision to seek the nomination to challenge Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018. "I think we are going backwards on a number of key indicators. Inequality across the state is a real concern — economic inequality. Many Maryland families are anxious about their economic situation."

Rockeymoore Cummings, 46, is not widely known in Maryland political circles apart from her husband. She holds a doctorate in political science from Purdue University and has more than two decades of experience working in the public and private sectors, including as chief of staff to New York congressman Charles B. Rangel (D), senior resident scholar for health and income security at the National Urban League and vice president of research and programs at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. She started Global Policy Solutions, a social change strategy firm, in 2005.

This is her first run for public office.

"Once Marylanders hear the experiences that I've had and the skills that I possess, they will consider my background on par with any county executive or anyone else in the race," she said.

A recent poll by Goucher College found that nine percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Rockeymoore Cummings in the June primary.

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, center, as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio poses for a photo with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), right, during a re-enactment the House oath-of-office in 2015. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Twenty-eight percent of Democrats said they would consider voting for former attorney general Doug Gansler, who also had the greatest name recognition. Gansler decided last month not to enter the race. Twenty-one percent said they would consider voting for Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; 17 percent for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; and 14 percent for former NAACP president Ben Jealous.

The other candidates — State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., attorney Jim Shea, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross and Krishanti Vignarajah, a former policy aide to Michelle Obama — were in low single digits.

A separate poll showed Baker doing better than any other declared Democratic candidate in a one-on-one matchup against Hogan, who is widely popular. Baker trailed the governor by seven points.

Emily's List, a political action committee that pushes to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, put Hogan "on notice" for 2018 last month, saying it planned to endorse and raise money for a candidate to run against him.

The group has not yet made an endorsement in the race, but it is helping Rockeymoore Cummings with the launch of her campaign.

Rockeymoore Cummings said she plans to use her experience growing up in a military family; working as a congressional aide; managing a program for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and running a small business to help create and enact policies that will move the state forward.

"If we can get the politics right in Maryland, we can get the policy right," Rockeymoore Cummings said. "And if we can get the policy right, we can get the outcomes for people right in a way that will grow the economy and certainly make Maryland a model for the nation."