Ruppersberger's Momentum

June 28, 1994

The withdrawal of Democrat Nancy L. Murphy from the Baltimore County executive's primary race is the latest in a string of recent events that has improved C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's chances. Over the past few weeks, Third District Councilman Ruppersberger has secured the endorsements of the county police and teachers unions, the local AFL-CIO and the Battle Grove Democratic Club of Dundalk. Mrs. Murphy, once considered a serious threat for the Democratic nomination, needed those endorsements if she was to gain some momentum and give Mr. Ruppersberger a run for his money.

Instead, the momentum is all Mr. Ruppersberger's. With Mrs. Murphy out of the race, he has shaken off one of the two opponents expected to compete seriously with him for dominance of the county's populous eastern districts.

The other candidate posing a threat on the eastside is John C. Coolahan. As a state senator in 1978, "the Lion of Halethorpe" from west county gained most of the major eastside endorsements. All that backing, however, was no match for the home field advantage and painstaking organization of Donald Hutchinson, a son of Essex who went on to two terms as county executive.

As for the current campaign, it's questionable whether Mr. Coolahan, a District Court judge from 1989 until last month, can expect much loyalty from eastside office-holders after being out of elective politics for five years. Moreover, he began running hard for the executive's race only weeks ago; the other major hopefuls have been at it for months. Mr. Ruppersberger, for one, was talking up his candidacy a year ago. Mr. Coolahan's absence from daily politics and his late start could prove difficult to overcome.

Meanwhile, Pikesville Councilman Melvin G. Mintz is banking his county executive candidacy on sweeping the large Democratic base in his district and picking up enough votes elsewhere to put him over the top. This approach has hazards, though. For one, the anticipated vote tallies are in no way guaranteed for Mr. Mintz. Two, he speaks of being a countywide candidate, yet his Pikesville strategy comes off as decidedly parochial.

The primary election is still 2 1/2 months away. But in the wake of the Murphy withdrawal and Mr. Ruppersberger's recent accumulation of endorsements, the Cockeysville councilman runs at the head of the pack and his opponents find themselves trying to catch up.

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