Republican Says He's Up for the Challenge of Entrenched Cummings|
By Liz Babiarz
Capital News Service
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2002
WASHINGTON - Maryland's 7th District congressional race will be a "slam
dunk" for Baltimore Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, who political
analysts say will easily win his fourth consecutive term.
But Joseph Ward said he is up for the challenge.
7th District Candidate Bios
By Capital News Service
Education: Graduated with honors, Baltimore City College High School,
1969; bachelor's degree in political science, 1973, from Howard University,
where he was Phi Beta Kappa; law degree, University of Maryland School of Law,
Experience: Attorney in private practice, 1976-1996; member of
Maryland House of Delegates, 1983-1996; elected in 1996 to Congress, where he
serves the Government Reform Committee and the Appropriations Committee; first
vice chairman Congressional Black Caucus.
Issues: Federal aid for education, health care, prescription drugs,
housing and public transportation; worker's rights, Social Security, Medicare,
environment; pro-choice; civil rights, election reform; Patients' Bill of
Rights; Medicare prescription drug coverage.
Family: Separated, with two children; lives in West Baltimore.
Joseph E. Ward
Education: Graduated from Allegheny Technical Institute, in
Pittsburgh, 1961; graduated from six-month electronic school on Scott Air Force
Base in Belleville, Ill.; attended Morgan State University for two years; has
taken job-related courses in computer science and telecommunications.
Experience: Served in Air Force 1956 to 1959; two years inactive
Issues: Education, crime, job and opportunities, transportation,
Social Security, Medicare, veteran's programs.
Family: Lives in Hunting Ridge with his wife, Carmen; has four
"I'm used to taking on bullies my whole life," the 64-year-old Republican
Ward, who has never held political office, faces one of the state's most
highly favored incumbents in Cummings, who was re-elected in 2000 with 87
percent of the vote and in 1998 with 86 percent.
That was before the 7th District lost some minority voters in a
redistricting that added about 75,000 new Howard County voters, who are
mostly white and conservative, said Tom Schaller, a political science
professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Even if the district is "not as safe" for Cummings, however, most believe
it will be a safe Democratic seat for the next decade.
"Anything short of being declared the sniper, Cummings is not going to
lose that seat," said Frank DeFilippo, a political analyst for WBAL radio.
But Ward is running because he thinks "the government would be better if
more working-class men and women were in government."
The Hunting Ridge resident is an assistant supervisor at Pepco who has
raised four children with his wife of 40 years, Carmen. He criticizes
Cummings, who he said is "not a family man." Cummings, who is separated,
declined numerous requests for an interview for this article.
"All of my children are good children," Ward said. "They are married,
successful and responsible. Family is very important to me."
Personal business aside, however, Cummings' political experience dwarfs
that of Ward, whose previous political forays are limited to failed bids for
Baltimore City Council and Congress - a Democratic primary he lost to
Cummings was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates when he won a
special election in 1996 to succeed Kweisi Mfume, who left Congress to head
the National Association for Advancement of Colored People. Cummings' only
real challenge was during that 1996 primary. He hasn't looked back since.
"It doesn't matter how competent you are, ultimately the way the district
is drawn, (Ward) is going to be the next in a long of sacrificial lambs to
Cummings," Schaller said.
Supporters say voters in the majority-Democratic district have "a love
affair" with Cummings.
"He is one of our shining lights," said David Paulson, a Maryland
Democratic Party spokesman. "He's all about social empowerment, putting
mechanisms in place for those who are struggling to find their way toward
employment and productivity."
Cummings' progressive voting record this term earned him an "A" rating
from the League of Conservation Voters, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP and the
Alliance for Retired Americans. The National Education Association gave him
an "A+" for his 107th Congress voting record.
"Congressman Cummings has been very accessible and very supportive of
public education," said Randall Moody, the NEA manager of federal policy and
politics. "We have recommended him for re-election to all of our members."
Cummings voted last year for a bill that granted a $6.7 billion increase
to public education, and against a bill that would have directed money to
religious groups. But he supported the administration's "No Child Left
Behind" legislation that allotted money to schools with underprivileged
His aides tout Cummings' work on crime and justice issues, noting that he
arranged a visit to Baltimore by one of the nation's "drug czars" to study
how drug treatment can reduce crime. As a result, Cummings secured $2.5
million in federal funding for drug treatment in Baltimore City, an amount
he said should increase to $224 million in fiscal 2003.
He is campaigning on a pledge of more federal aid for education more
funds for housing and public transportation, and a comprehensive Patients'
Bill of Rights and Medicare-based prescription drug coverage.
Ward is also promising to get more funding for education, to address
school overcrowding and what he called "deplorable" dropout rates in the
"It's time to hold the Democrats accountable for failure of the schools
system," Ward said.
He said that "voting isn't enough" for a congressman, and points to
problems like overcrowding at Featherbed Lane Elementary School that has
forced children into portable classrooms.
While a Maryland Department of Education spokesman agreed that
overcrowding is a problem, he noted that Congress "does not provide a
dramatic amount of money for school, it's a state and local issue."
Along with education, Ward will focus on reducing crime rates,
particularly in Baltimore City. He said he plans to implement a program like
the Texas Ranger Law Enforcement Program, a special unit of skilled officers
who use martial arts to fight crime.
Ward's platform also includes increasing job opportunities, attracting
government agencies and private business to Baltimore City and improving
transportation between the city and Washington, D.C. He also pledged to
actively support veteran's and senior citizens programs, including Social
Security and Medicare.
But Ward faces long odds. Federal Election Commission reports said
Cummings had raised $166,819.63 as of Oct. 15, while Ward did not raise the
minimum $5,000 that triggers an FEC filing.
Ward's campaign has raised money from the party and mutual friends, but
his campaign manager "preferred not to say" how much money was on hand. "We
are doing the best we can with the time and money we have," David Tulfaro
Ward also faces the challenge of running as a former Democrat who
switched parties after his 2000 primary loss to Cummings
"Party switchers tend to receive skepticism by members of the party they
left and members of the party they joined who are weary of opportunists,"
But Ward said he was "never supported" by the Democratic Party, and now
considers himself a proud conservative, campaigning with other Republicans.
"We are very supportive of Mr. Ward," said Paul Ellington, executive
director of the Maryland Republican Party. "He has a record of service, not
professional political experience, but military service and work in the
private sector. He realizes that there does need to be a change and that
there needs to be an economic infrastructure in place in the district."
Ward has gone door-to-door, attended forums and made a few television
appearances. He faced Cummings Wednesday in a televised debate on Maryland
Public Television, but said he has been disappointed that Cummings would not
otherwise debate him.
Aides said Cummings is "doing the job that he was hired to do and
campaigning to the extent that he can." Campaign spokesman Mike Christianson
said that since June, Cummings has made about 15 appearances a week in the
district, with extra attention to the new portions.
"Cummings is working it out in Howard County," said Carol Arscott, of
Gonzales/Arscott Research and Communications Inc. "He doesn't have to spend
a moment there to win but he does. He seems to be willing to learn and meet
He has also campaigned with other leading Democrats.
"He is the hardest-working person I've ever met. I'm a workaholic and he
makes me look normal," Christianson said.
Ward concedes he has a fight ahead of him. But when he needs motivation,
he tells the story of the Johnnycake Elementary School basketball team he
coached. In the last seconds of a tournament game, he took a chance and gave
the ball to one of the weaker players on the team.
The player made the shot and won the game. Ward said both he and the
player learned a valuable lesson from that game.
"You can't always fight the weaker teams, sometimes you have to fight the
stronger ones," he said.
2002 University of Maryland College of
Top of Page | Home Page