The late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings was a “fighter” and a “true hero” whose loyalty and visibility in his district areas did not go unnoticed by Howard County elected officials.
“We lost a fighter and a true hero for not just the city [of Baltimore], not just for Howard County, but for our country,” said Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Democrat who represents parts of Howard County.
“We have lost a tremendous voice … not only for our district but for Washington, D.C.,” State Sen. Clarence Lam, who covers both Howard and Baltimore counties.
“He really cared about people [which] showed over everything he did in his over 23 years in Congress.”
The 68-year-old congressman died at approximately 2:45 a.m. Thursday of complications from longstanding health problems.
Cummings, who was a patient of Gilchrist Hospice Care, according to a member of his staff, had not participated in a House roll call vote since Sept. 11. After missing a key committee hearing in mid-September, his office said he had undergone a medical procedure. Cummings’ staff did not say why or when he was moved to hospice care and did not respond to questions about the cause of death.
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According to state law, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan will need to announce plans by Oct. 28 for a primary and a general election to fill the vacancy.
In late 1995, the Baltimore Democrat decided to run in the 7th Congressional District, a seat he held until his death. The 7th District covers portions of Howard and Baltimore counties and the city of Baltimore.
On the national front, Cummings was chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, becoming a key figure in impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
“He was at the forefront of leading the charge against our current president and trying to make America a better place for all of us, especially children. He always spoke about children,” Atterbeary said.
In 1982, Cummings became a state delegate, the same year as former Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s father, Robert Kittleman.
“My dad would talk about him a lot. … I got to know him a lot better as county executive, especially during the [Ellicott City] floods,” Allan Kittleman said. “I garnered a lot of respect for him for the way he treated me … not at all political.”
During both of Ellicott City’s catastrophic floods, Cummings was out on the streets, attending town halls and involved with recovery efforts, Kittleman said.
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Cummings “was a good man and he cared about his community and he wanted to do what he thought was best,” Kittleman said.
After being elected as a delegate, Atterbeary was “amazed” by how visible Cummings was in Howard County.
“Just to think someone on the national level … made themself available to me and others in our county is amazing and inspiring,” she added.
The two worked together on county issues dealing with healing and race relations. Atterbeary said she hopes to continue that work.
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Cummings was a “friend, a confidante and a role model” for Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.
In a statement, Ball said, “Congressman Cummings was someone who would take my call whenever I needed him, provided the best advice, and was always gracious and kind.”
Del. Courtney Watson, who represents part of Howard County, said Thursday morning on Twitter that Cummings’ “void is immense.”
“He was a champion for all of us, but particularly for the voiceless,” she wrote. “As my Congressman, I saw his inspiring words motivate multiple generations in my community.”
Early Thursday morning, Howard County schools Superintendent Michael Martirano tweeted: “I am deeply saddened to learn the sad news of the passing of my congressman and my friend Elijah Cummings. He was a courageous leader who cared deeply for the people he represented. He will be greatly missed. May he Rest In Peace.”
On Friday evening, county leaders will gather for a vigil to honor Cummings. The wreath-laying ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Cummings’ Howard district office on Main Street in Ellicott City.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.