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Elijah Cummings, Steny Hoyer among Marylanders addressing DNC

PHILADELPHIA — Maryland, a state often overlooked in national politics, had an outsized role on the first night of the Democratic National Convention.

Reps. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore and Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland spoke to delegates in the Wells Fargo Center in back-to-back addresses Monday. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake unexpectedly opened the ceremonies. Marylander Ben Jealous was among the first national surrogates for Bernie Sanders to speak on stage.

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And all of it happened within the first two hours.

Democrats are meeting in Philadelphia to nominate Hillary Clinton for president a week after Republicans gathered in Cleveland to thrust Donald Trump toward November. In Cleveland, only one Republican speaker could claim Maryland ties: retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

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Cummings, who served as chairman of the platform drafting committee, delivered an impassioned speech about his father, whom he described as "that brilliant man with a fourth-grade education but a mind full of wisdom and common sense."

Portions of Cummings' speech were drowned out by Sanders protesters, who chanted "No TPP," in reference to the Pacific Rim free trade agreement pending in Congress.

The agreement was negotiated by President Barack Obama, but it is disliked by unions and liberal groups, who say it would undercut wages and worker protections.

Cummings, who was the first to invoke the Black Lives Matter mantra here, just rolled on, hoping his applause lines would rise above the chants.

"I stand before you because my parents saw promise in their children," he said. But my parents did not do it alone. No one does it alone. It was our Democratic Party that pushed open the doors of opportunity for me, and for millions of children all across the country."

Rawlings-Blake introduced herself to the crowd as "mayor of the great city of Baltimore" and called it an "honor and a pleasure" to kick off the convention. She was pressed into service after Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz relinquished the role amid the scandal over internal party emails.

After calling the convention to order, Rawlings-Blake started walking off stage — only to realize she hadn't actually struck the podium with a gavel. She hurried back and did so, to applause — in a moment that was widely replayed on social media. The mayor has served as the secretary of the national party since 2013.

Hoyer also received some boos from Sanders supporters when he noted, correctly, that the party had gathered to nominate Clinton.

"We're here to nominate Hillary Clinton because of her ability, her experience, and her vision for our country," said Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House. "We're also here to show America why Democrats up and down the ticket are ready to lead."

Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, led Sanders' campaign in Maryland and was a frequent advocate for him on the campaign trail elsewhere.

He sought to bridge the divide between the Clinton and Sanders camps, suggesting that fights to support a $15 minimum wage, college affordability and environmental controls on natural gas extraction would be easier with Clinton in the White House.

"You could say, I've spent my entire life pulling people together to prove love trumps hate," Jealous said.

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"To communities devastated by both mass incarceration and murder," he said, "join us at the ballot box and together we will shift our nation's priorities away from the failed War on Drugs and towards rehabilitation, the reincorporation of the men and women returning from prison into our society, and public safety strategies that actually make us safer."

Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this report.

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