The late U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) had more than $1 million in his political bank account at the time of his death, according to newly-released campaign finance records.
Including Cummings, seven of Maryland’s eight incumbents in the House of Representatives reported at least $883,000 in their campaign accounts as of Sept. 30. The one exception was freshman Rep. David J. Trone (D) – a multimillionaire who has largely self-funded his political campaigns so far.
The disposition of Cummings’ ample campaign fund — $1,049,031 — is one of the many unanswered questions left by the congressman’s death last Thursday at the age of 68. A yet-to-be-scheduled special election will take place in the first quarter of 2020 to replace him.
It is widely assumed that Cummings’ widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, will run in the special election to succeed him. But Rockeymoore Cummings, currently the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, would not have full access to her husband’s campaign account.
Under Federal Election Commission rules, Ronald Thompson, Cummings’ campaign treasurer, can direct the distribution of the campaign funds. Money may be allocated for expenses associated with closing the campaign fund; the campaign can make campaign contributions to an unlimited number of political candidates, but they must adhere to federal and state contribution limits. In other words, if Rockeymoore Cummings decided to run for Congress, the late congressman’s campaign could contribute up to $2,000 to her campaign – the standard limit for one federal campaign to transfer money to another.
A late federal official’s campaign fund can, however, make an unlimited contribution to a state or federal campaign committee. In other words, the state party, currently directed by Rockeymoore Cummings, could in theory be in for a big windfall from her husband’s campaign. Alternately, a campaign fund that is shutting down can make unlimited contributions to registered charities.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) must set dates for the special primary and special general election to replace Cummings but is unlikely to do so until after the congressman’s funeral Friday. A primary election must be held at least 65 days after the formal declaration of a vacancy and a general election must be held at least 65 days after that – which means a new member of Congress won’t be chosen for the 7th District until February or March.
In such a Democratic district, most of the action will take place in the Democratic primary, but most candidates almost certainly aren’t going to come forward until after Cummings’ funeral. William T. Newton, a frequent candidate, was already seeking the Republican nomination, and on Sunday, Liz Matory, the GOP nominee in the 2nd District last year, announced on social media that she would be a candidate.
“It took everything I had to sit #2020 out, but God needs more warriors who will stand up and fight for Our Republic!” Matory wrote on Twitter.
Matory ran for House of Delegates in Montgomery County as a Democrat in 2014 and for Congress as an independent in the 8th District in 2016.
Robust war chests for other incumbents
Each of the state’s seven surviving incumbents seems well-fixed for reelection, financially.
Rep. Andrew P. Harris, the state’s lone Republican in the congressional delegation, reported $883,313 on hand as of Sept. 30. The Democrats’ on-hand totals, in financial order: Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the House majority leader, $1,175,474; Rep. John P. Sarbanes, $1,083,931; Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, $1,034,276; Rep. Anthony G. Brown, $951, 849; Rep. Jamie Raskin, $950,470; and Trone, $40,531.
The incumbents’ challengers – to the extent that they have any – are far behind in the money chase.
In the 2nd District, state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County) announced in August that he would challenge Ruppersberger. But as of Sept. 30, he hadn’t yet raised the $5,000 which triggers as a campaign finance reporting requirement.
In the 6th District, state Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington) has created an exploratory committee as he considers whether to challenge Trone. He reported $5,064 on hand at the end of last month.
Two progressive activists are challenging Hoyer in the Democratic primary: Mckayla Wilkes reported $62,742 in the bank and Briana Urbana had just $752 on hand.
In the 4th District, attorney and Iraq War veteran Shelia Bryant is challenging Brown in the Democratic primary. She reported $17,561 in the bank after raising $28,831 between July 1 and Sept. 30. But $20,000 of that came from her own pocket.