Once the most influential jurisdiction in the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore has slowly seen its dominance eroded based on a number of factors – most glaring is the mass exodus of voters from a city that was once home to almost a million state residents. Now, touting merely 600,000 + residents, and a voter turnout rate that often causes many statewide candidates to overlook their communities for the growing influence of neighboring Baltimore County; city leaders have to begin questioning how they get back to having the kind of influence that once had both the Senate and House financial chambers chaired by city politicians.
Yesterday may have been the start of that comeback story, as two of the city’s most promising political superstars won their contests to lead the state’s Democratic Party over the next four years. In two of the most hotly contested and talked about races across democratic circles, both Maya Rockeymoore-Cummings and Senator-elect Cory McCray withstood a political play by their incumbent competitors to begin a new chapter of Maryland’s Democratic leadership.
In a divided party that pits the progressive wing of younger party activists against the old-guard of establishment party loyalists, yesterday’s election was the last electoral victory for the young progressives in 2018. They began their surge earlier in the year with a decisive victory of their gubernatorial candidate, former NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous, who crushed the establishment candidacy of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker in the democratic primaries by winning twenty-two of the state’s twenty-four jurisdictions.
That wing of the party, led in large part by the influential backing of unions such as the SEIU branches, also witnessed success in many state senate and delegate races where they ran progressively younger candidates against more established longtime incumbents – and witnessed a monumental shift in the representation returning to Annapolis next year for the next legislative session. One of those candidates was first-term state delegate McCray, who successfully defeated his district state senator Nathaniel McFadden in a decisive victory and has now become the party’s first vice-chairman after defeating the party’s incumbent vice-chairman, Scherod Barnes.
Rockeymoore-Cummings, the wife of establishment Congressman Elijah Cummings, in many respects has become the darling of the progressive wing of the party; becoming one of the most influential African American women across the state. And while she has never served in elected office, her intellect, charm, beauty and ability to raise millions of dollars for democratic causes has led to her becoming a household name in democratic circles. So much so that she entered the crowded race for Governor in the democratic primaries late last year, but had to withdraw from the race a few months after her announcement, due to her husband getting gravely ill.
But she reestablished her statewide influence nicely yesterday, after she defeated the incumbent party chairwoman, Kathleen Matthews – whose influence amongst the party establishment was so powerful that she had the state’s senior United States Senator Ben Cardin address the party faithful yesterday, ahead of the vote for chairwoman, in order to all but endorse her from the floor (which I’m not sure was the most ethical of things to have done).
But even as she passed out campaign flyers, and had the union facility hosting the party affair littered with elect Matthews lawn signs; it seems as if the members of the party’s democratic state central committee were ready to move on from the leadership of Matthews, and give the young and vibrant Rockeymoore-Cummings the chance to lead them forward.
Under Matthews leadership, which spanned only two years since she was elected during the middle of a term after the Chairman resigned in 2017; the Party paid special attention to growing the influence and inclusion of female candidates statewide, and witnessed historic victories in localities that many had written off. The Party’s “Blue Wave”, which Matthews yesterday labeled a “Blue Tide”, helped flip a House seat and many local county council chambers, including defeating popular Republican incumbent county executives in Howard and Anne Arundel county.
However despite those successes, the Party’s gubernatorial nominee, Mr. Jealous, ended up losing to the incumbent Republican Governor Larry Hogan, which was the ultimate prize Democrats hoped to claim this year; and many local rural counties felt alienated by the party leadership, who tend to focus their attention and resources more on the larger jurisdictions such as Baltimore City and County, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. All of those frustrations came to the surface yesterday, as Prince George’s County democratic activist Theresa Dudley rose to point out some of those very frustrations during a question and answer period.
“I’d like to know, in fact WE’D like to know, exactly how much of that coordinated campaign money [addressed in the treasurer’s report] was used to fund democratic candidates who chose to use pictures of the Republican Governor on their literature, talking about they can work across the aisle,” said Dudley. “These aren’t the democratic principles we ascribe to, and we shouldn’t be funding candidates who aren’t running on democratic principles and against the policies and principles of that other party.”
The crowd, which was largely made up of the progressive part of the party, cheered loudly during Dudley’s questioning. This same group also chanted “Maya, Maya, Maya” after the announcement was made regarding the vote count for Chairwoman. “The total weighted vote has Kathleen Matthews with 319.48 votes, and Maya Rockeymoore-Cummings with 438 [loud cheers] votes.” Her numbers came from some of the larger regions, such as Baltimore City, whose delegation voted 32-2 in favor of Rockeymoore-Cummings, even though first vice-chairman McCray had previously made it public that he was supporting Matthews for the chair position.
That decision may have negatively effected his vote count coming out of his home region, as the city delegation voted 18-16 in favor of Barnes – who is also a city resident – handing McCray a fatal blow [if no more than his ego] ahead of the overall vote total, which had Barnes gaining 313.5 of the vote while McCray garnered 421.24 votes. McCray has now single-handily defeated two incumbent democrats in one year; starting with Senator McFadden in June’s democratic primary, and ending yesterday with the defeat of Barnes, the party’s incumbent vice-chair.
And now, with Maya and Cory both hailing from Baltimore City, the leadership of the Democratic Party over the next four years will be firmly in the hands of city leaders, who will certainly ensure that the state no longer leaves the C off of Charm [City]. And given the recent committee announcements made by Senate President Thomas ‘Mike’ Miller, we will need as much assistance as possible, given that not one member of the city’s senate delegation will be represented on the all-important Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee – which deals with important issues effecting the obvious education, health and environment, but also issues such as voting rights and more.
But for now, we celebrate the victories of Madame Chairwoman, Maya Rockeymoore-Cummings and Mr. 1st Vice-Chairman Cory McCray, as well as Allison Galbraith as 2nd Vice-Chair, Nicole Williams as 3rd Vice-Chair, Robbie Leonard as Secretary, Deputy Secretary Abena Affum-McAllister, Bob Kresslein as Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer Jeffrey Zane Slavin. If you would like to see the live video footage of the election, go here to DMVDaily News FB page