Poll: Cummings leads three-way race to succeed Mikulski

WASHINGTON — In the race to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, the leading Democratic candidate is someone who isn’t running.

Rep. Elijah Cummings leads a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, with 33 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying they’d vote for him in a three-way race if the primary were held immediately, The Post reports. Declared candidates Rep. Donna Edwards and Rep. Chris Van Hollen are tied with 20 percent.

Plenty of voters, however, are still up for grabs: 11 percent favor none of the candidates or someone else, and 16 percent have no opinion.

If Cummings doesn’t run, the balance tips toward Edwards, the poll finds: 38 percent would back her in a two-way race, as opposed to 28 percent for Van Hollen.

Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Benghazi. The Post reports that he has said he will announce his intentions regarding Mikulski’s seat after Hillary Clinton, the presidential candidate and former secretary of state, testifies in front of the committee. That’s set for Thursday.

The poll results would seem to be a setback for Van Hollen. The Post reports that he’s out-fundraising Edwards 3 to 1. In addition, while Van Hollen is white and Edwards and Cummings are African-American, Van Hollen has gotten endorsements from well-known black Democrats, including Ike Leggett and Rushern Baker III, the executives of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, respectively.

Van Hollen campaign manager Sheila O’Connell says in a statement that the poll “reflects what everyone has always known — the campaign depends on the battle for the undecided voters in the Baltimore area.” She contends that it was taken before Van Hollen’s first TV ad aired in Baltimore, and that their own polling shows Van Hollen slightly ahead at the outset. “Unlike The Post, we polled off actual voter lists instead of a random sample of adults who say they might vote in the primary. We are very confident in our data.”

Benjamin Gerdes, communications director for the Edwards campaign, says The Post’s numbers regarding the two-way race generally jibe with the campaign’s internal polling. “Donna’s lead in the polls continues to grow because she’s the only progressive fighter in this race,” Gerdes says, citing Edwards’ stances regarding Social Security, income inequality and the National Rifle Association.

The poll is based on answers from 550 Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents as part of a larger poll of 1,006 Maryland adults conducted Oct. 8 to Oct. 11. The margin of error is plus or minus five points. The entire poll is here.

The Democratic primary will be held April 26.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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