Maya Rockeymoore Cummings was the wife of longtime Congressman Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, Maryland. They were married for more than a decade before his sudden death on October 17, 2019. On November 11, 2019, Rockeymoore announced that she was running for Congress to fill her late husband’s seat.
Rep. Cummings was 68 years old and his death was attributed to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.” Rep. Cummings had heart surgery in 2017 and was hospitalized in early 2018. In the days leading up to his death, the congressman had undergone an unspecified medical procedure and hadn’t returned to work. According to a statement from his office, Rep. Cummings died at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Rockeymoore Cummings released a statement upon his death that noted that the congressman had been committed to his role as a lawmaker “until his last breath.” Her statement read in full:
“Congressman Cummings was 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.”
Rockeymoore was the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party. The organization added in the official announcement, “Our hearts are broken over the loss of such a dynamic figure in American politics. And we ask the public and the press to allow Maryland Democratic Party Chair Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings – and the rest of the Cummings family – time and space to grieve their loss.”
Maya Rockeymoore & Elijah Cummings Married in 2008 & She Referred to Cummings as the ‘Man of My Dreams’
Rep. Elijah Cummings and Maya Rockeymoore tied the knot in 2008. She is 20 years his junior. They did not have children together. But Rockeymoore became a stepmother as Cummings had three adult children.
He had two daughters, Jennifer and Aida. They both followed in their father’s footsteps and attended Howard University. Rockeymoore posted several photos of Cummings alongside his daughters on her personal Instagram account.
Rep. Cummings never publicly talked about his son publicly or posted photographs with him on social media. His name is not known.
During their marriage, Rockeymoore made sacrifices for her own political career in order to care for her husband as he battled health issues. She launched a run for governor of Maryland in October of 2017. But she dropped out of the race in January of 2018 after her husband was hospitalized for a bacterial infection. Rockeymoore said at the time that she needed to suspend her campaign “due to personal considerations.” Rockeymoore was then elected chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party in December of 2018.
In an Instagram post from December of 2018, Rockeymoore shared a photo from their wedding day. In the hashtags, she referred to Cummings as having been the man of her dreams.
Maya Rockeymoore Announced She Is Running to Fill Her Late Husband’s Seat In Congress
Rep. Elijah Cummings was up for re-election in 2020. Maya Rockeymoore announced on November 11, 2019, that she was stepping down as chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party in order to run for Congress to fill her late husband’s seat.
It has been a long practice in Congress for the widows of congressmen to step into that role. According to the House of Representatives’ History, Art & Archives, Rep. Mae Nolan became the first spouse to succeed her husband in Congress in 1923. The government website explains the practice:
“So prevalent was the practice of wives succeeding husbands in this and later generations that political scientists eventually coined the term ‘widow’s mandate’ or ‘widow’s succession’ to explain it. The prevailing expectation was that the women would serve briefly and provide a seamless transition by carrying forward the legislative business and district interests of their deceased husbands.”
According to the Center for American Women and Politics, dozens of women have been appointed to House and Senate seats to replace their husbands since the 1920s. Current Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui of California initially took over her late husband’s seat in 2005 and has been re-elected to the position ever since. When Senator John McCain passed away in August of 2018, his wife Cindy was considered an option to fill his seat. But, according to CNN, Cindy McCain “was adamant in saying no” and former Rep. Martha McSally was ultimately appointed to fill the vacancy.
Rep. Elijah Cummings Was Remembered as a ‘True Hero’ & a ‘Fighter’ By His Colleagues
Lawmakers took to social media to express their condolences and share their memories of Rep. Elijah Cummings. Rep. John Larson of Connecticut wrote, “Today is a sad day for America. Elijah Cummings was a fighter for his beloved Baltimore and for Democracy. He always put his district and the American people first in his work. I am honored to be able to call him a dear friend and colleague for the past 20 years. I send my deepest condolences to his wife and my friend, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore-Cummings, to his children, and to his constituents. He will be greatly missed.”
Rep. Lacy Clay of Missouri wrote, “My prayers go out to the family and friends of @RepCummings He was my colleague, friend and mentor. I have lost a brother and America has lost a true hero.”
The Congressional Black Caucus shared a thread on Twitter, which is embedded above. The group stated that the entire nation had “suffered a tremendous loss… As a lifelong advocate for justice, equality, and the truth, Elijah Cummings was the true definition of a leader & his commitment to civility & humanity were invaluable in times such as these. To many, he was a friend & mentor, but to the members of the CBC, Elijah was family.”
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi shared a clip from Rep. Cummings’ first address to Congress after he was elected in 1996. “Chairman Cummings said in his first speech to the House, “I only have a minute, only sixty seconds in it… Just a tiny little minute, but an eternity is in it.” He fit an eternity of service into his years, and we’re all the better for it.”
Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont stated, “.@RepCummings was a fierce advocate for civil rights, working people and children. He was the conscience of the House in these turbulent times. And he was my friend. My heart goes out to Maya and his family.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York said, “I came to Congress in 98. Elijah, who came just two years before me, was among the first to make me feel at home. I was always moved by how his voice carried command, garnered respect and inspired hope. Glad I got to know him and could say he was my friend. May god bless his soul.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden described the late congressman as a “true public servant, his life defined by the love of his community and a fierce commitment to ensuring truth wins over power. The whole Biden family sends our condolences to his wife, Maya, his children, and the entire city of Baltimore.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina posted a lengthy thread about working with his colleague from across the political aisle. It reads in part, “Elijah Cummings was one of the most powerful, beautiful & compelling voices in American politics. The power and the beauty came from his authenticity, his conviction, the sincerity with which he held his beliefs. We rarely agreed on political matters. We never had a cross word outside of a committee room. He had a unique ability to separate the personal from the work. The story of Elijah’s life would benefit everyone, regardless of political ideation… His legacy is making sure there were fewer obstacles for the next Elijah Cummings. His legacy to me, above all else, was his faith. A faith in God that is being rewarded today with no more fights, no more battles, and no more pain.”
Senator Bernie Sanders wrote, “Jane and I are deeply saddened by the loss of our good friend, Rep. Elijah Cummings. I was honored to work closely with him over the years. His integrity and moral vision for his community and the country were extraordinary.”