Holding Out For A Hero

Roll Call has an article today noting that while the only two candidates in the Senate race as yet are from the D.C. suburbs, two different Baltimore candidates continue to either express interest or draw intense speculation in a potential run.

First, Elijah Cummings. Roll Call doesn’t hold out much hope here.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings would change the game if he got into the race. The longtime Baltimore politician has a base of support there and statewide name recognition that would make him a contender.

Cummings, speaking briefly Tuesday on Capitol Hill, said he would not answer questions about a possible Senate bid and declined to disclose any timetable on a decision.
“Congressman Cummings is still considering how he can best serve,” Mike Christianson, a Cummings spokesman, told CQ Roll Call in an email.
But one source close to Cummings said Monday it did not appear to him that Cummings was building the campaign apparatus one might need if planning a Senate run, including efforts to strengthen his fundraising and hire key staff members.
“He doesn’t seem to be taking the steps that one would be taking if one were to run,” the Democratic operative said.

I think this analysis is right on. I think there was a time when Cummings was on the verge of getting in - but that was April, and the unrest in Baltimore made him change his mind. I’ve heard nothing recently that would make me think Roll Call is off in its assessment.

Expressing some recent interest in the race has been Dutch Ruppersberger.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Cummings’ fellow Baltimorean, is considering a run, but he told CQ Roll Call Tuesday he would wait until September to make his decision.

“I like what I’m doing now, that’s why I didn’t want to run for governor in 2014,” he said.
Ruppersberger said he has encouraged Cummings to get in the race. Ruppersberger pointed to Cummings’ personal activism earlier this year on the streets of Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, the unarmed black man who died from injuries while in police custody.
“Especially after the riots, he was out there and did a good job,” Ruppersberger said. “I think Elijah has the problem I have: We really like what we’re doing here.”

The key point, expressed previously by Ruppersberger, is the “waiting until September” part. I have heard more than once that Ruppersberger has agreed to defer to Cummings until then, but not longer. Assuming Cummings stays out, and further assuming that Dutch sees a path to victory, I think there’s a better than even money chance he gets in.

The question is whether there’s a path to victory. Roll Call notes the problem for a Baltimore candidate.

Part of the problem for potential Baltimore candidates such as Ruppersberger or Cummings is demographics. In the past decade, the population in the District’s suburbs has grown, while Baltimore’s has declined. According to Census Bureau estimates, Baltimore’s population is about 623,000, while the number in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, wrapped north and east around D.C., has grown to more than 2 million.

“Half the state is the Washington suburbs, and that media market doesn’t know us as well, just as they don’t know Chris and Donna in Baltimore,” Ruppersberger said.
Ruppersberger has more than $1.1 million in the bank, but said he recognized Van Hollen’s fundraising strength and the fact that the other two candidates are already well known in the state’s — and one of the country’s — most expensive media market.

Today’s news that Maggie McIntosh - former campaign manager and state director for Barbara Mikulski, and a powerful Baltimore delegate for over two decades now - will be endorsing Chris Van Hollen may well be a sign that Baltimore leaders are ready to recognize that this isn’t their year. Let’s wait and see who makes a move in the coming weeks and months.

Senate Race: What Now?

This piece is for entertainment purposes only. I don’t know whether Donna Edwards intends to stay in or get out. So use the following with great care.

One candidate has $3.75 million, the other has $419,000. The first candidate has a great fundraising track record, having run the DCCC for two cycles. The second candidate had $30,000 in the bank at the outset of this race, and a reputation as not being a great fundraiser. Her strategy was to stay close enough to bring third party money from EMILY’s List and other IE groups to bear at the end. But it’s not close, and you have to figure that the IE groups will not be enthused about throwing major money at a candidate who if things continue as they are will be outgunned by $7-8 million or more come Election Day.
Given the numbers to date, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that Edwards can turn this around. The smart money will continue to flow to Van Hollen, and with it endorsements and support from elected officials and local community leaders. Everyone wants to support a winner, and increasingly that’s how he’s being perceived.

Let’s assume she doesn’t stay in. Two questions. Who if anyone gets in? And what happens if Edwards decides to drop back into the CD4 contest?

Who gets in the Senate race? Several possibilities. The Van Hollen nightmare scenario is Elijah Cummings. Well respected, well known, polls well all around the state. He would be formidable. But several factors mitigate against him getting in. One: Baltimore. Cummings was at the forefront of the response to the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray. Running for Senate will take away his ability to focus as heavily on his hometown.

Two: money. Like Edwards, Cummings is not a prolific fundraiser. To build on his natural support as a respected veteran lawmaker, he’d have to lock himself in that room for several hours every day for many months. Is that what he wants?

Three: my sense is that there’s a lot of respect between Cummings and Van Hollen. Every politician thinks he or she is the best choice for any race. But does Cummings loathe the idea of Senator Van Hollen enough to motivate him to gear up the effort needed to beat the clear front runner?

Four: Cummings is the ranking member of an important committee, having spoken out on several efforts by the GOP to investigate Democrats with a political angle, such as Benghazi. Will he want to give up that position to be a freshman senator? 

I remain skeptical that Cummings will run. But he might. And he will be a major threat if he does.

Who else? This blog’s own white whale, John Delaney, is always a possibility to open up that checkbook and mount a self-funded campaign. The conventional wisdom is that he wants to be governor in 2018. But a challenge to Van Hollen from the right can’t be ruled out in 2016. Bonus: if Delaney abandons his CD6 seat, we will get the fun prospect of all hell being unleashed in the campaign to succeed him. Last time I looks, I had about 8-10 names on a list of prospective candidates for that race. Moving it from 2018 to 2016 will only increase the chaos.

If Cummings stays out, Dutch Ruppersberger could get in. Everything I hear right now is that Dutch is deferring to Cummings. If Cummings runs, Dutch won’t. And word is that Ruppersberger would rather be governor than senator.

More remote possibility: John Sarbanes. I think he’s committed to waiting for the next chance, but him reconsidering can’t be ruled out for 2016.

My rank guess is that everything turns on Cummings. If he runs, there’s a real race. If he doesn’t, it’s possible that nobody serious steps up and Van Holllen wins in a walk. Delaney will be sorely tempted, and it’s anyone’s guess what he does. Ruppersberger and Sarbanes remain outside possibilities. Expect all this to be clearer by the end of the third quarter.

Final point: Edwards is in a bind no matter what. I can’t see a path forward to victory in the Senate race, but there’s not exactly a comfortable landing pad in CD4, either. Glenn Ivey has almost as much cash on hand as Donna does, and Joseline Pena-Melnyk has dug in tenaciously as well. I can’t see either one conceding that race back to the incumbent without a fight. Harder to figure what Dereck Davis or Ingrid Turner will do in that scenario, but I believe Donna Edwards is in for a fight whichever way she chooses to go.

Hot Sheet

For those of us playing the home version of the game, things have gotten messy. So being spring, it’s time for a clean start with a fresh new scoresheet.


Declared and Running: Donna Edwards, Chris Van Hollen
Still Thinking About It: Elijah Cummings
Finally Actually Thinking About It: Dutch Ruppersberger
Probably Not This Time: John Sarbanes
Likes To Torture Bloggers With Conflicting Signals, But Also Likely Not Running: John Delaney


In: Anthony Brown, Dereck Davis*, Glenn Ivey, Joseline Pena-Melnyk, Ingrid Turner*
Mulling It Over: Jay Walker
Rumored: Anthony Muse, Kris Valderrama

* Declared as candidates, but have yet to file with the FEC


Off to the Races: Kumar Barve, Ana Sol Gutierrez, Will Jawando, Jamie Raskin
Likely: Valerie Ervin, Kathleen Matthews
Still in the Conversation: Ariana Kelly, Susan Lee, Jeff Waldstreicher

Dutch Treat?

I’ve wondered for a long time why Dutch Ruppersberger kept getting mentioned as a Senate candidate. There was not one single public indication of his interest. Well, now there is.

There may be a U.S. Senate campaign in Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger’s future. Then again, there may not.

“Too soon,” the Cockeysville Democrat told Capital News Service. “We’re all surprised with [Sen. Barbara] Mikulski. We didn’t know it was coming.”

* * *

“My popular polling is very high in the Baltimore area,” said Ruppersberger, characterizing himself as a moderate Democrat. “If I’m the only one from Baltimore, I’ll consider it.”

“I’m not afraid to take a risk, believe me,” added the seven-term congressman, 69, who said he is likely to make a decision by the summer. His House seat is considered relatively secure.


End of the Month Summary

To think that a month ago, Maryland 2016 was going to be a sleepy little remote outpost. Hillary Clinton or another Democrat would win the state’s 10 electoral votes, Barbara Mikulski was going to be reelected for another term, and everyone would be focused on reclaiming the governor’s seat in 2018.

Well. Wherever we are now, it ain’t that place. It being the end of the month, here’s a summary post of every race that Barbara Mikulski’s March 2 retirement announcement has spawned. Not to mention the very existence of this humble and nefarious nest of rumors and whispers. Thank you, Senator Barb.

If a candidate has declared themselves not running, I’m not going to keep listing that. I’m only listing the ones with “??” who have been identified as interested and haven’t said no. I’m also leaving out CD3, CD6 and CD7 - for now - because the incumbents haven’t definitively declared for the Senate race yet.

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order in each race. No favoritism should be assumed or implied. Not valid in Indiana, Oklahoma, Alabama or where prohibited by law (didja catch the very topical LGBT references there? Y’all have to stay sharp to keep up with just how damn witty I am).

U.S. Senate

Elijah Cummings IN*
John Delaney ??
Donna Edwards IN
Heather Mizeur ??
Dutch Ruppersberger ??**
John Sarbanes ??
Chris Van Hollen IN


Anthony Brown IN
Glenn Ivey IN
Anthony Muse ??
Joseline Pena-Melnyk IN
Ingrid Turner IN (thanks, Mollie Byron, for pointing out my oversight)
Jay Walker ??


Kumar Barve IN
Valerie Ervin ??*
Nancy Floreen ??
Bill Frick ??***
Ariana Kelly ??
Kathleen Matthews ??
Jamie Raskin IN
Hans Riemer ??

* Both Cummings and Ervin are expected to declare their candidacies in the very near future.

** I don’t actually believe Ruppersberger is running. But certain national publications persist in listing him, so what the hell, right?

*** Bill Frick has been rumored to be considering both the CD6 race and more recently, the CD8 contest.

So 2021 candidates, 3 races. The prospect of a bunch more if CD1, CD2, CD3, CD6 and CD7 all open up (yes, I hate the Oxford comma. Sue me). All of the candidates thus far - other than Kathleen Matthews - are either present or former officeholders. If they all run, the reverberations of this earthquake will be felt for an entire generation - the last time something like this happened was 1986. How long ago was that? I was 23 years old, a year out of college and still had some hair on my head. Yeah, that long ago.

392 days until the primary. This is gonna be one crazy, insane and AWESOME ride. Hang with me and let’s have some fun.