Since the election of Maya Rockeymoore Cummings as Maryland’s Democratic chair in December, she’s pushed to boost confidence among a party that’s lost three of the past five gubernatorial elections despite Democrats outnumbering Republicans 2 to 1 in the state.
Rockeymoore Cummings, 48, recently finished a statewide tour of all 23 counties and Baltimore City and chatted with residents and local officials on ways to improve the party. One of the most heartfelt moments came when she visited Caroline County and chatted with the mother of Anton Black, 19, who died while in police custody last fall. Black’s brother, Brandon Jackson, died by suicide in February.
“She cried in my arms and I cried in hers as she told me the story after Anton was killed,” Rockeymoore Cummings said in a June 3 interview. “The family is completely still heartbroken. I am heartbroken not just as a party chair, but as a human being. We should be able to prevent these incidents in the future and we need to work towards on getting to a place where we don’t have happening across the state.”
The founder of Global Policy Solutions, a consulting firm in Northwest, merged into the contentious House speaker race in April to request the Democratic candidates not accept Republican votes. Ultimately, Del. Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) was unanimously chosen to replace the late Michael Busch, becoming the state’s first African American and first woman to hold the position.
“At the end of the day, all’s well that ends well,” said the wife of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore).
Rockeymoore Cummings, 48, also hasn’t been shy about challenging Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on policies and proposals such as expansion and toll lanes along Interstates 495 and 270, the governor’s mostly upper-income base and the lack of investments in distressed communities.
She also said Hogan hasn’t established a relationship with her hometown of Baltimore, especially egregious since it’s the state’s biggest city.
“I’ve seen how he has come in [and] snatched things away from Baltimore City,” she said. “He has basically demonized the population of the city. He has constantly belittled undermined the ability of the city to develop and enjoy a relationship with a governor who’s supportive,” Rockeymoore Cummings said. “We don’t currently have a relationship with the governor’s office in a way that would help, build and grow the city of Baltimore and that’s unfortunate.”
Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said in an email Thursday, June 6 that the administration remains in active discussions with lawmakers to offer a bridge loan of $1 million to support the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which announced the cancellation of all summer concerts because of lack of funding.
Ricci also noted the orchestra has received $8.7 million from the state between fiscal years 2016 to 2019.
“Governor Hogan has been, is now, and will continue to be a great supporter of the BSO,” he said.
In regard to state Democratic leadership, Rockeymoore Cummings wrote a letter in April to request state lawmakers not accept Republican votes during the House speaker election.
Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s, Maryland, said the responsibility of the party chair is mostly administrative to help format strategy and make sure resources are distributed properly.
“Typically, the party chair isn’t the face of the party” he said. “That usually goes to some senior elected member. In Maryland, you would expect that to be [Sen.] Ben Cardin or [Rep.] Steny Hoyer. You are never supposed to be the news. Your candidates are supposed to be the news.”
Rockeymoore Cummings doesn’t plan to remain quiet. She wants to make the party a year-round organization that seeks to diversity efforts in fundraising, hire regional organizers and enhance local central committees and ensure a Democrat wins the governor’s seat in 2022.
Del. Jazz Lewis (D-District 24) of Landover said Democratic unity remains strong, but acknowledged it could be improved with standing meetings with state leaders.
“I think Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings has done a decent job [but] she has to do a lot of work to build a base with the state Democratic leadership,” said Lewis, who serves as the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus. “We should have more scheduled meetings to make sure we are on the same page.”