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On the Campaign Trail - House and Senate

Mon, Aug 24, 2015

Columbia, Maryland

In the middle of the August Congressional recess, the Association’s Advocacy team has taken the opportunity to meet with Hill staff. Last week we met with staffers for Reps. Edwards, Harris, Holmes-Norton, Hoyer, Ruppersberger, Sarbanes and Van Hollen to discuss Member Business Lending (MBL), ‘Stop and Study’ bill, cyber-security and other issues. We will continue our rounds this week with our delegation.  Once Congress is back in session, staffers informed us that September will be taken up first off by the Congressional vote on the Iran nuclear agreement, and will likely turn to the issue of federal funding for Planned Parenthood, given the recently released videos, and a possible government shutdown over budget issues. On the plus side, we were also told that there did not appear to be anything on the immediate horizon that would negatively affect credit unions, with respect to the credit unions tax status.

In addition, the team continues to meet and ‘interview’ Congressional candidates, who are running for the 4th and 8th districts, seeking to replace Rep. Donna Edwards and Rep. Chris van Hollen, respectively. Last week we met with candidates Former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney,Glenn Ivey, state delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk (4th) and Former WJLA news anchor, Marriott Corp. executive Kathleen Matthews (8th). Working with CULAC, the team is working to assess the best candidates to support in each district prior to the April 2016 Maryland primary. In addition, several days ago, the list of candidates for the 8th district expanded. David Anderson, an executive at the nonprofit group, Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University declared. While he begins as a third tier candidate, the team will assess his chances in the race as we look to round-out our interviews.

On the Senate front, there were a number of news articles last week that reported that Rep. Elijah Cummings might be making some moves to enter the race and if he did so, how this would shake up the race. Reading tea leaves, the Washington Post and CQ Roll Call reported that Cummings will hold a fundraiser at Nats Stadium when the O’s are in town. What is noteworthy is the organizer: a seasoned Democratic fundraiser who has raised money for Senate candidates. Cummings’ decision to hire her shows at least an interest in strengthening his otherwise modest fundraising operation, and, at most, could be a signal that his interest in a statewide run might be growing. A spokesman for Cummings’ campaign, downplayed the hire as “routine.”

If he did jump in, Cummings could gain an early lead simply because of geography and demographics: having Baltimore as his hometown would be an advantage. Nearly half of D primary voters reside in the Baltimore media market. When voters head to the polls next spring, Baltimore could experience higher turnout because of a competitive mayoral race on the same ballot.  Cummings’ entrance would make it a main event: a three-way primary between Cummings, Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen would be something of a proxy battle between three Democratic leaders who represent three different wings in the party.

Cummings polls better than the other candidates according to a poll released by the Edwards campaign (campaign pollster Global Strategy Group).  Both she and Van Hollen have the same favorability rating, about 45 percent. Cummings, meanwhile, would start a race with 65 percent popularity and with only 9 percent of voters giving him an unpopular rating. The same poll gave Edwards a 5 point lead in the match-up with Van Hollen, a number that Van Hollen’s campaign commented on but did not dispute.  

But to win, Cummings would have to up his fundraising game…hence the impetus for the media reports. At the halfway point this year, Van Hollen reported nearly $3.8 million on hand ahead of the April primary. Edwards, reported just shy of $420,000 in the bank. Cummings doesn’t need to out-raise Van Hollen, but probably needs to out-raise Edwards. Last quarter, Cummings raised $235,000 – but, he ended the quarter with $918,000 in the bank – a decent start for a statewide bid.

For additional information: Glen Cooney, VP – Advocacy & Legislative Affairs, 443-325-0775, gcooney@mddccua.org.