Cummings ran for Congress in a crowded 1996 special election to succeed Kweisi Mfume, who had resigned to lead the NAACP. Cummings' main opponent in the primary was the Rev. Frank Reid III, the influential head of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the stepbrother of Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke. Polls initially showed a tight race between Cummings, Reid, and three other candidates, and it appeared likely for much of the campaign that the winner would prevail with just a small plurality of the vote.
However, Cummings established himself as the frontrunner late in the race. Cummings had a big financial advantage over the rest of the field, which allowed him to run TV ads well before anyone else; Reid only went on the air during the final weekend of the race. Cummings, who also earned endorsements from several prominent Baltimore newspapers, ended up beating Reid 37-24. On election night Cummings declared, "And so it is tonight on this fifth day of March 1996, the son of sharecroppers rises up to be the Democratic nominee for the Congress of the United States."
Cummings had no trouble winning the general election for his safely Democratic district, and he never faced any serious opposition during his long congressional career. Cummings did spend a year considering a Senate bid to succeed retiring incumbent Barbara Mikulski in 2016, but he announced that he'd stay in the House the day before the filing deadline.
Cummings attracted national attention as the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee during the Obama administration by standing up to Republican Chairman Darrell Issa and his many bogus investigations. In one memorable 2014 incident, Issa cut Cummings' microphone after the Democrat questioned Issa's handling of an investigation into allegations that the IRS was biased against conservative groups; Issa soon apologized.
Cummings also received very positive reviews from progressives across the country the following year for defending Hillary Clinton during her 11-hour testimony in front of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, a hearing he decried as an "abusive effort" to "derail Secretary Clinton's presidential campaign."
Cummings was active at home in Baltimore. In April of 2015, after a black man named Freddie Gray died in police custody, Cummings spoke at his funeral and declared, "[W]e will not rest until we address this and see that justice is done." Later that spring during the unrest that followed Gray's death, Cummings famously took to the streets for several nights with a bullhorn and appealed for calm. (That bullhorn, which was emblazoned with a gold label reading, "The gentleman will not yield," was a gift from Issa following their confrontation the previous year.)
In January, with Democrats back in control of the House, Cummings became Oversight Committee chair. The congressman was a key leader in the many investigations against the Trump administration, and a few months before his death, Cummings and his Baltimore constituents were the target of several racist tweets from Donald Trump. Cummings did not respond directly, but he used his speech at the National Press Club to condemn "racist language" coming from the country's leaders and called for them to "work together for the common good." Cummings also said, "God has called me to this moment. I did not ask for it."
A special election will be held sometime in the future to succeed Cummings in the 7th Congressional District, a safely blue seat that included much of Baltimore and its western suburbs. The party nominees will be chosen through partisan primaries.
● KS-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom dropped out of the Democratic primary on Thursday and endorsed state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a move that came just one day after Bollier entered the race. The Kansas City Star wrote that Grissom's decision was a sign that state and national Democrats were coalescing behind Bollier, a former moderate Republican who switched parties last year. The New York Times' Jonathan Martin also responded to the news by tweeting, "The hand of Charles E. Schumer loometh."
The only other Democrat running in the August primary is Manhattan Mayor Pro Tem Usha Reddi, who said Thursday that she wasn't going anywhere. However, Reddi raised just $61,000 during her first month in the race, so she may have a tough time gaining traction.
● ME-Sen: State House Speaker Sara Gideon is going up with her first TV spot well ahead of the June Democratic primary, and the Democratic media firm Amplify Media reports that she's spending at least $105,000 to air it. Gideon tells the audience how, while her husband was initially approached to seek a town council seat, she decided to run instead and won. Gideon goes on to talk about her work in local and state government on bipartisan legislation to "protect healthcare coverage, provide property tax relief, and lower the cost of prescription drugs."
● MI-Sen: The GOP firm Marketing Resource Group is out with a poll giving Democratic Sen. Gary Peters a small 43-40 edge in a likely general election matchup with 2018 GOP nominee John James. A recent poll from Target-Insyght for MIRS News gave Peters a huge 53-37 lead.
While it's not clear yet how vulnerable Peters is, this is already shaping up to be a very expensive race. James outraised the incumbent $3.1 million to $2.5 million during the third quarter of 2019, though Peters ended September with a $6.3 million to $3.9 million cash-on-hand lead.
● NH-Sen: Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski suggested on Wednesday that he'd decide on a Senate bid very soon. Lewandowski told conservative radio host John Fredericks, "I'll be back in New Hampshire Thursday and I'll spend the weekend with the kids, and I think this weekend is going to be a very, very important one for the Lewandowski family going forward."
Lewandowski also used that same interview to trash his would-be GOP primary rivals by saying that "they don't have the financial resources to compete." The best-funded candidate currently challenging Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is wealthy attorney Corky Messner, who raised only $220,000 from donors but self-funded another $1 million. Messner ended September with $1.2 million in the bank.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc took in a similar $240,000 but had only $144,000 left to spend. Bolduc insisted a few weeks ago that "we will have the resources we need to defeat Jeanne Shaheen in November of 2020," though his own campaign recently sent out a rather desperate fundraising plea titled, "Donate to our 2020 gas fund now." Still, he already has more money for petrol than former state House Speaker Bill O'Brien, who raised just $39,000, self-funded another $42,000, and had $48,000 in the bank.
Multiple unnamed Republicans argued to WMUR that these lackluster hauls were the result of donors waiting to see what Lewandowski would do, and reporter John DiStaso wrote, "We understand that at least one of these Republicans – actually, probably all three of them – have donors waiting to help them, but only if Lewandowski doesn't run."
Shaheen, though, is having no trouble with money. The senator raised $2 million for the quarter and ended September with $4.3 million on-hand.
● KY-Gov: Democrat Andy Beshear is out with a spot that features several people arguing that GOP Gov. Matt Bevin doesn't care about regular people.
● CA-08: Last week, former GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelly announced that he'd make a third run for this now-open seat. Donnelly, who was a tea party ally during his time in the legislature, ran here in 2016 against GOP incumbent Paul Cook, but he failed to advance past the top-two primary. Donnelly campaigned here again last year and managed to reach the general election, but Cook beat him 60-40 in November. Cook is retiring to run for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
● IA-01: State Rep. Ashley Hinson, who still faces no serious opposition in the GOP primary, picked up an endorsement this week from Gov. Kim Reynolds. Hinson is running to flip back this 49-45 Trump seat in northeastern Iowa from Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who unseated GOP incumbent Rod Blum last year. Finkenauer outraised Hinson $463,000 to $318,000 during the third quarter and ended September with a $963,000 to $498,000 cash-on-hand lead.
● MA-04: Dave Cavell, who recently stepped down as a senior adviser to Attorney General Maura Healey, announced Thursday that he would enter the crowded September Democratic primary for this reliably blue open seat. Before he worked for Healey, Cavell served in the White House as a presidential speechwriter for both Barack and Michelle Obama from September 2015 until the end of the Obama presidency.
So far all of the declared candidates, including the Brookline-based Cavell, hail from the Boston suburbs in the northern part of the district, which could leave an opening for a contender with a base to the south.
● NH-01: This week, 2018 GOP nominee Eddie Edwards reaffirmed his interest in seeking a rematch with freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, though he didn't say when he expected to decide. Edwards had also said earlier this year that he was thinking about a Senate run, but he didn't mention that race this time.
No notable Republicans have entered the contest to take on Pappas in a seat that narrowly backed both Barack Obama and Donald Trump, but the GOP may still hope for an alternative to Edwards. Edwards had trouble attracting national donors during his last campaign, and major Republican outside groups didn't reserve TV time here. In late October, he also made the mistake of saying out loud what many conservatives have always been thinking when he declared that, while Social Security needed to be stabilized, "But moving forward, we have to look at the way to start weaning people off of Social Security as well, in the future."
While Edwards and the NRCC released a poll in early October showing him leading Pappas 42-40, national Republicans still didn't seem convinced this was a good pickup opportunity and they continued to avoid airing TV ads. Pappas outraised Edwards $2.2 million to $1.2 million during the campaign and won 54-45.
● NY-17: NY1 reporter Zack Fink writes that state Sen. David Carlucci is expected to announce on Monday that he'll seek the Democratic nod for this open seat. Carlucci was one of the founding members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group that voted with the GOP to give the minority party control of the New York state Senate in 2013 even though Democrats nominally had a majority.
The IDC officially rejoined the mainstream Democrats in 2018, but six of their eight members went down in defeat in that year's Democratic primaries. Carlucci kept his seat, though, by turning back an intra-party challenger just 54-46. Since the start of this year Carlucci and fellow IDC alum Diane Savino have caucused with the new Democratic majority.
● TX-17: On Tuesday, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to former GOP Rep. Pete Sessions as part of their investigation into Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and two Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Sessions, who lost re-election last year in Texas' 32nd District and is now seeking a comeback 80 miles away in the open 17th District, has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and there is no sign that he's a target of the investigation.
Last week, Parnas and Fruman were charged with conspiring to funnel foreign donations to GOP candidates. The indictment said that Parnas met last year with someone identified only as "Congressman-1" to get his "assistance in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine." Prosecutors also allege that, during this time, Parnas and Fruman were working to give more money to this congressman than was legally allowed.
Multiple media organizations soon reported that this congressman was Sessions, and he responded, "If I am 'Congressman One', I could not have had any knowledge of the scheme described in the indictment or have involvement or coordination of it." Sessions acknowledged that he'd sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was unfairly biased against Donald Trump. However, he argued, "At no time did I take any official action" after his meeting with Parnas and Fruman, and he said he wrote to Pompeo after he heard complaints from "several congressional colleagues" about Yovanovitch.
● TX-28: On Thursday, EMILY's List endorsed attorney Jessica Cisneros' primary campaign against Rep. Henry Cuellar, who is one of the worst members of the Democratic caucus.
Cuellar hasn't faced a serious intra-party opponent in over a decade in this 58-38 Clinton seat in the Laredo area, and he only outraised Cisneros by a modest $376,000 to $318,000 during the third quarter. However, Cuellar has been stockpiling money for a long time, and he ended September with a massive $3.2 million to $292,000 cash-on-hand lead. The primary is in March.
● Milwaukee County, WI Executive: On Wednesday, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced that he would not seek re-election next spring as head of Wisconsin's largest county, a reversal from his May decision to run again. Abele is a Democrat, but he's been loudly criticized for working with the GOP-led state legislature to increase his own power at the expense of the County Board. In 2014 Abele even donated to a few Republican state representatives who had recently supported him on some key legislation impacting Milwaukee County.
Abele won this post in a nonpartisan 2011 special election to succeed Republican Scott Walker, who had just been elected governor. Abele was re-elected in 2012 without any trouble, but he won an expensive battle against Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson four years later. Larson, who challenged Abele from the left last time, said Wednesday that he was thinking about running again, and several other local politicians also quickly expressed interest.
The filing deadline is Jan. 7 for this nonpartisan race. All the candidates will run on one ballot on Feb. 18, and the top-two vote-getters will compete in the April 7 general that will take place on the same day as Wisconsin's presidential primary.