Maya Rockeymoore Cummings was married to longtime Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings. He was the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and was a leading figure in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Rep. Cummings passed away early on the morning of October 17, 2019, at the age of 68 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. In a brief statement, his office stated that he died due to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.” The Baltimore Sun had reported one day before his death that Rep. Cummings had not returned to work as expected after undergoing some sort of medical procedure.
Rockeymoore and Cummings had been married since 2008. It was his second marriage. Rep. Cummings also had three children from previous relationships.
Rockeymoore was serving as the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party and released a statement about her husband’s death through that organization. Rockeymoore described him as an “honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility. He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem. It’s been an honor to walk by his side on this incredible journey. I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly.”
On November 11, 2019, Rockeymoore announced that she would step down as chairwoman in order to run for her late husband’s congressional seat.
Here’s what you need to know about Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.
1. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings Was Elected to Lead the Maryland Democratic Party in December of 2018
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings was the face of the Democratic party in her adopted home state of Maryland. She was elected to be the chair of the state party in December of 2018. The term is four years — but as referenced above, Rockeymoore is stepping down early to run for Congress.
The chairperson vote was 438-319 against the assumed favorite, Kathleen Matthews. Matthews had served as chairwoman for the two previous years.
As reported by Maryland Matters, a nonprofit, nonpartisan website covering politics in the state, party leaders were apparently drawn to Rockeymoore’s promise to be more inclusive and to reach out to both progressive and more centrist members of the party. She also vowed to increase services to rural areas.
Before the vote on December 1, Rockeymoore addressed the fact that Democrats had won down-ballot races in Maryland in 2018 but had lost the governor’s race to Republican Larry Hogan. The Washington Post quoted part of her speech, “We have a structural problem when it comes to the top of the ticket. And that structural problem will create a downward spiral for our party if we don’t fix it now.”
2. Rockeymoore Ran For Governor of Maryland But Dropped Out of the Race After Her Husband Was Hospitalized In 2018
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings had plans to challenge Larry Hogan for the governor’s office in 2018. He has been Maryland’s governor since 2015 and won re-election in 2018 against Ben Jealous.
Rockeymoore launched a campaign in October of 2017 to be the Democratic nominee for governor. At that point, she had never held an elected position before. One of her key issues was health care. The Associated Press reported that she supported the idea of universal health care.
She also earned a coveted endorsement from Emily’s List, a PAC that supports Democratic women for office. The organization’s president, Stephanie Schriock, said of Rockeymoore in a statement: “Maya Rockymoore Cummings is a progressive trailblazer with the bold ideas and real-world experience to create broad economic prosperity and opportunity for all Marylanders. Maya grew up in a military family that stressed hard work, discipline, and service to others – the same values that drove her to lead the fight to protect and strengthen Social Security, start her own small business, and found a nonprofit dedicated to improving people’s lives.”
But Rockeymoore’s campaign did not get a chance to really take off. She was the last candidate to declare and the first to drop out. Rockeymoore suspended her campaign in January of 2018 after her husband was hospitalized for a bacterial infection. Rep. Cummings had also undergone heart surgery the previous year.
Rockeymoore issued a statement at the time that read, “Making a positive and direct contribution to the state of Maryland and to our nation was my greatest motivating factor for stepping into the public arena. Unfortunately due to personal considerations, I am suspending my bid for governor of Maryland. I thank all of the people across the country who have supported my campaign and those whom I have met on the campaign trail who also fervently believe that we can and must do better for the people of Maryland.”
3. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is the President & CEO of a Political Consulting Firm Based in Washington, D.C.
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings formed a political think tank and consulting firm in 2005. She based Global Policy Solutions in Washington, D.C.
The organization explains its purpose on its website as such: “Inspired by the deep inequality that remains a fact of life for many people in the U.S. and around the world and by practices that degrade their environments, we specialize in deploying strategies that empower marginalized people and communities while improving the environments in which they live.” Rockeymoore further explains on her Linkedin profile that she leads a “consulting team of ‘solutionists’ dedicated to creating and implementing social change strategies for corporate, philanthropic, non-profit, academic, and governmental organizations.”
The firm’s listed clients include AARP, the National League of Cities, the National Hispanic Council on Aging, the National Council of La Raza, the National Minority AIDS Council, the National Council of Negro Women, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and the Alliance for Excellent Education.
4. Rockeymoore Cummings Began Her Political Career While Pursuing Her Doctorate in Political Science
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings earned her bachelor’s degree in 1993 from Praire View A&M University in Texas, a historically black college in Texas. She studied political science and was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
She moved north to Indiana for her advanced degrees. Rockeymoore earned her master’s and Ph.D. from Purdue University, both in political science. She obtained her doctorate in 2000.
Rockeymoore began her political career while still a student. She served for nine months as a legislative fellow in the office of Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina. She followed that up with a job at the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee. From January 1999 until August 2000, she worked for Rep. Charles Rangel of New York and became the Chief of Staff.
After earning her doctorate, Rockeymoore worked for the National Urban League in Washington, D.C. before moving on to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. She left there in 2005 when she launched her own consulting firm.
5. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is a Texas Native & Has a Large Family
Maya Rockeymoore was born on January 31, 1971, in Texas. The family moved around often due to her father’s Air Force career. Her parents, Thomas Charles Rockeymoore and Hazel Brown Rockeymoore, were childhood sweethearts. Hazel passed away in September of 2015. According to her obituary, Hazel was the youngest of nine siblings.
Rockeymoore Cummings has two siblings, Mark and Meredith. She also has seven nieces and nephews.
Rockeymoore Cummings did not have children of her own. But after marrying Elijah Cummings in 2008, she became a stepmother. Rep. Cummings has three children from previous relationships, including daughters Jennifer and Adia, who posed with the Obamas in the Instagram photo above. Adia, who graduated from Howard University in 2016, also made headlines that year for using her father’s car, which he had let her borrow, to drive for Lyft.