Democratic primary field for governor likely to keep growing

Community Times

A wise man once told me that in politics, "Always expect the unexpected."

Donald Trump's election as president showed the veracity of that statement, as does the current stampede of candidates considering a run in next year's Democratic primary for governor.

One Baltimore County candidate is making the rounds in the early quest for votes — Owings Mills' Kevin Kamenetz, who next year finishes his final term as county executive.

Benjamin Jealous, former president of the NAACP, worked at the civil-rights group's Lochearn headquarters just inside the city-county line between Patterson Avenue and Northern Parkway.

Now a third candidate with tangential ties to northwest Baltimore County may soon enter the governor's race — Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.

If that name is unfamiliar, there's a reason.

Although Rockeymoore Cummings' husband, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, has a home in the Baltimore City-Baltimore County congressional district he represents, she claims her residence as Washington, D.C.

Indeed, she is one of those "inside the Beltway" denizens of Washington whose consulting firm thrives on clients looking to influence decisions on Capitol Hill.

Now, though, Rockeymoore Cummings wants to work in the Annapolis State House in the building's most powerful office.

She says she has "a bold vision" and would be "a different kind of leader," promoting, among other things, women's issues.

Her ties to Maryland, though, are razor thin.

She was raised in Texas, graduated from Prairie View A&M in Texas, received her Ph.D in political science from Purdue University in Indiana, and held a series of jobs for an African-American congressman and two African-American groups tied to Capitol Hill.

That resume is hardly Maryland-centric, a point voters might find unappealing.

She is vying for the support of left-wing Democrats who voted last year for Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as African Americans and female voters.

So far, Rockeymoore Cummings would be the only woman in the governor's race.

But she would be the third African-American candidate, which could split this large and important bloc in the Democratic primary.

Within her husband's congressional district, which includes portions of Owings Mills, Reisterstown and rural Baltimore County to the north, Rockeymoore Cummings would be competing with the home-grown Kamenetz as well as Jealous supporters in Woodlawn, Randallstown and Owings Mills.

She would have a tough road to navigate, especially since she lacks a political base of own and lacks any history of communicating with voters in other parts of this sprawling state.

One of the ironies is that the primary winner faces a steep, uphill fight against incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

The governor has maintained his high popularity ratings and continues to avoid taking positions that could damage his chances for re-election.

Still, the Democratic primary is drawing a host of unorthodox candidates such as Rockeymoore Cummings, whose main claim to political legitimacy is her husband's long tenure in Congress and, prior to that, in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Others in the race include a young technology entrepreneur and author, Alec Ross; Jim Shea, the former managing partner for one of the state's biggest law firms; Rich Madaleno, an openly gay state senator from Montgomery County who gave up a promising legislative career to run for governor; Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, Jealous and Kamenetz.

With 11 months before the primary, things probably will get clarified. Candidates will drop out while unexpected, new contenders may emerge. It could be the most exciting primary race to watch in 2018.

Barry Rascovar's blog is www.politicalmaryland.com. He can be contacted at brascovar@hotmail.com.

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