Cummings: 'I?m running like I?m behind'

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Local,Jaime Malarkey
He’s won his past six bids for reelection by margins more comfortable than silk pajamas, but Elijah Cummings insists he’s campaigning this year like he’s “25 points behind.”

The veteran Democrat, representing the seventh congressional district of Baltimore and much of Howard County, is taking heat from a newcomer challenger for voting in favor of the $700 billion economic bail-out, and says he’s not taking any chances.

“I still don’t feel good about the vote — I don’t think anyone felt good about it either way,” Cummings said. “But I had to err on the side of the people who called and said they were in deep trouble.”

Cummings, 57, likely won’t have any problem overcoming his top challenger, Ron Paul Republican Mike Hargadon. Again, Cummings’ won his past six elections by at least 73 percent margins, and in 2006 he ran unopposed. He’s raised a tidy $840,000 this

election cycle, compared with Hargadon’s $17,000, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

But after two public debates with Hargadon, he admits his main competition is pretty darn likable. The two agree on many issues, such as ending the war in Iraq and curtailing extraneous government programs.

But Hargadon, 57, accuses Cummings of catering to the very corporations that fund his campaigns, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both firms authorized to open lines of credit from the U.S. Treasury under the bailout legislation.

“Congressman Cummings has taken $10,000 from Freddie and Fannie Mae since 2003,” Hargadon says. “I would call that a conflict of interest, but I guess its just business as usual.”

The dentist and father of four from Woodstock embraces minimalist government and humble foreign policy, and has pledged not to take any campaign contributions from special interests. Hargadon says he would serve a maximum of three terms.

To challenge Cummings, Hargadon — who got 400 votes as a write-in candidate for Maryland’s lieutenant governor against former Gov. Robert Ehrlich in 2006 — severed allegiance with the Constitutional Party, an anti-tax group that considers government spending on health care, education and welfare unconstitutional.

“We need to try to bring the federal government back to the powers laid out in the Constitution,” Hargadon said. “For government to get that closely involved with big business, it’s just wrong.”

Cummings says he only voted for the bailout after specific assurances from presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama that foreclosure remedies will follow.

The incumbent also faces a challenge from Ronald Owens-Bey, a libertarian social worker from Baltimore. Owens-Bey says the seventh district contains 20,000 registered unaffiliated voters, which could give him a shot at defeating Cummings.

“It’s not simply change for change’s sake,” said Owens-Bey, who declined an invitation to debate Cummings because other third party candidates were not included. “I think he’s outlived his use.”

CUMMINGS WIN MARGINS
2006        Unopposed
2004        73 percent   
2002        74 percent
2000        87 percent
1998        86 percent
1996        83 percent
 
jmalarkey@baltimoreexaminer.com
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