The Democratic primary for Maryland's 4th district is putting the Congressional Black Caucus in a difficult position and prompting liberal activists to prepare for battle.
Rep. Donna Edwards won her seat in 2008 with net-roots support, first routing then-Rep. Al Wynn in the Democratic primary. She hasn't had any serious challenges since, but she's now up against former Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, who already has proved he's able to win countywide.
Ivey could use his ties to CBC members to make the April 3 primary a battle for the ages in what Roll Call rates as a Safe Democratic seat.
Edwards finds herself in a redrawn district that swapped out Edwards-friendly Montgomery County constituents for new voters in the more conservative Anne Arundel County. She kept a sizable portion of her Prince George's County home base.
Political operatives, local politicians and consultants called Ivey "the real deal" and suggested he'll be formidable.
Ivey's entrance into the race creates a dilemma for the CBC, which declined to comment. The group traditionally backs incumbents, as it did in 2008 with Wynn.
But Ivey spokesman Ramon Karionoff said Ivey has "been in private contact" with CBC members about his bid, adding that Ivey has a long history with the group dating back to his time on the Hill.
It remains to be seen the level of involvement that Edwards' fellow Marylander and former CBC Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) will take in the primary. Another dynamic to watch will be whether Edwards and Ivey split the black vote, providing an opportunity for a potential Democratic candidate. Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit, who is white, told Roll Call he is confident that if he runs, he would dominate Anne Arundel County. He described Anne Arundel voters as feeling "a deep resentment" that they do not have a Member of Congress from within the county because of gerrymandering.
Besides his work as a prosecutor, Ivey served as a Capitol Hill staffer for Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and former Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.). He is an attorney at a D.C. law firm and maintains that he is "very well-known in Prince George's County."
Roll Call asked Ivey whether his former bosses would be involved in his campaign. "I'm not trying to create awkward situations for anybody. ... I think the key is the things I learned from them, I could put to work immediately upon getting there," he said.
He said his campaign is preparing to roll out local endorsements, but he declined to disclose the supporters' names.
An Ivy League education, the connections, the fundraising and the proven local electability all point to Ivey strengths.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.