Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said Monday that he has spoken with Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and was assured that the popular Democrat is not running for Senate.
Young joined with other prominent Baltimore African American elected officials in Mount Vernon to endorse Rep. Chris Van Hollen's campaign to succeed Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who will retire in 2017. State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden and Del. Talmadge Branch, the House Majority Whip, were among those also backing Van Hollen on Monday.
Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, is widely popular, and several polls -- including a recent survey for the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore -- show him leading both Van Hollen and Rep. Donna F. Edwards.
That has caused months of speculation about his intentions.
Cummings has taken no steps toward a run, but has also declined to rule one out.
"I personally spoke to the congressman, and he told me he was not running," Young said during the press conference Monday when he was asked about Cummings.
"He and I are very close, but he's not in this race," said McFadden, adding that he did speak with Cummings before coming out in support of Van Hollen.
In response, aides to Cummings said Monday he has not yet decided whether he will run for Senate.
Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, and Edwards, of Prince George's County, are both introducing themselves to voters in Baltimore City, which has become a battleground in the Senate contest. The leaders backing Van Hollen on Monday said they believe Van Hollen has done more for Baltimore.
"When the city needed help, we could go to Chris Van Hollen for support," McFadden said. "The Baltimore region needs the best candidate with experience to hit the ground running -- a proven track record on all issues."
The support from some of the city's most respected African American leaders is notable in part because Edwards frequently discusses the historic significance of her election. Edwards would be the first African American to represent Maryland in the Senate, and only the second black woman elected to the chamber.
"Race is important. Having an African American in the United States is important," McFadden said. "But if you look at all of the issues, and the needs of the Baltimore region...when it comes to issues that affect African Americans, and people of need, Chris has been there. His record is equal in those terms to what Ms. Edwards has done."
Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, ultimately has until Feb. 3 to decide about the contest. That's the date candidates must file with the state Board of Elections to reserve a spot on the ballot.
The Baltimore Sun-University of Baltimore poll last month found Cummings would capture 40 percent of the state's Democratic voters, enough to lead Van Hollen and Edwards in a three-way race. That poll came after Van Hollen ran a significant television ad campaign in the Baltimore region, but before $1 million in advertising for Edwards paid for by Emily's List hit the air.