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Rep. Elijah Cummings to seek House re-election, will not run for Senate

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member on the House Benghazi Committee, speaks to reporters before the start of the committee's closed-door hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member on the House Benghazi Committee, speaks to reporters before the start of the committee's closed-door hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the popular Baltimore congressman who has been weighing whether to run for Senate for nearly a year, has decided to seek re-election to the House instead -- averting a shakeup in the contest to replace Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

Cummings' campaign made the announcement in a statement early Tuesday, a day before the state's deadline to file for ballot access. The congressman was expected to file for re-election at the State Board of Elections on Tuesday.

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Cummings' decision was not a surprise. Most political observers had long ago assumed the Baltimore Democrat would not run for Senate. The 11-term congressman had not increased fundraising, hired new staff or sought to lock down key political endorsements -- all moves someone considering a statewide campaign could be expected to do.

On the other hand, Cummings' delay had left the door open just a little for months. A number of polls showed Cummings would have started with a big advantage over the two declared candidates, Reps. Donna Edwards of Prince George's County and Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County -- enough, at least, to alter the course of the race.

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Cummings' allies had argued that, because of that support , the congressman could have entered the contest late and still performed well. Maryland's primary is set for April 26.

In an interview, Cummings declined to say whether he would endorse Van Hollen or Edwards in the contest, though his support will be coveted by both lawmakers.

"This has probably been the most difficult decision I've ever made," said Cummings, adding that he made up his mind last weekend.

"My determination is based on where I think I can be most effective, with regard to representing the people of my district, our city and our state and our country," Cummings said. "For right now, I believe the House is where I need to be."

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Cummings, who turned 65 last month, noted the changes that have taken place, or will soon, in Maryland politics -- a new governor in place; a new mayor on the way. The best thing for the city in terms of stability, he said, would be for him to stay in his current job.

"I want to be there to try to make sure that I help to bring Baltimore back," he said.

Cummings saw his star rise considerably among Democrats last year both for his handling of the riots in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, and also for his job defending presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a lengthy, televised congressional hearing about her role in the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

The top Democrat on the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee has also received national attention for a series of investigations into prescription drug prices and the banking industry.

A Baltimore Sun-University of Baltimore poll in November showed Cummings had support from 40 percent of the state's Democratic voters, enough to lead Van Hollen and Edwards in a three-way race. More recent polling, conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing, found Van Hollen with a slim lead in the race that was within the margin of error.

A quarter of voters were undecided.

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