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Will a Candidate Emerge From Baltimore in Maryland Senate Primary?

Ruppersberger is a Baltimore Democrat mulling a campaign for U.S. Senate in Maryland. (File Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

While two candidates from the D.C. suburbs are running for the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat, no candidate has emerged from Baltimore.  

Democratic Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen have already begun their fight to grab retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski’s seat. But members of the state’s congressional delegation from Baltimore are still quietly considering whether there is a path to victory for a candidate such as them to run as a voice for the state's less affluent urban core against those from the wealthy suburbs.  

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.  

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.”  

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.  

Cummings ended June with about $920,000 in the bank, far less than Van Hollen's $3.5 million, but more than Edwards' $418,000. Still, Edwards is expected to have substantial support from outside groups such as EMILY's List, which would like to see a woman and a progressive maintain Mikulski’s seat.  

While no Baltimore Democrat has entered the race, a Republican has. Chrys Kefalas, a lawyer turned speechwriter for the Justice Department and then the National Association of Manufacturers, announced his candidacy earlier this year. He has said he will focus his campaign on Baltimore and what he described as failure by the city's Democratic leadership.  

The Maryland Senate race is rated Safe Democrat by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.  

Emily Cahn contributed to this report.

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