Ruppersberger keeping distance from Glendening PRIMARY 1994

September 15, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

It was no accident yesterday that Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, the Democratic nominee for Baltimore County executive, was talking about his independence and his close ties with Republicans.

In this case "independence" means keeping a respectable distance from Democratic gubernatorial nominee Parris N. Glendening, he said.

Mr. Ruppersberger is hoping that his reputation as a moderate, north county Democrat from a council district with plenty of Republican constituents will give him the political center as he gets ready for a bruising general election campaign against Republican incumbent Roger B. Hayden.

The same tactic -- avoiding straight party politics -- worked well for Mr. Hayden in 1990, when he switched his registration from Democratic to Republican and then won an upset victory over entrenched incumbent Democrat Dennis F. Rasmussen.

North county Del. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., now the GOP nominee for Maryland's 2nd Congressional District seat, agreed that party labels mean less now than ever.

"Party identification is at an all-time low," Mr. Ehrlich said. People today vote on the basis of one or more issues and on personality. It's a very volatile political environment."

"I worked closely with Republicans," Mr. Ruppersberger said yesterday as he basked in the warmth of an easy victory in a four-way primary race.

"If Republicans didn't support me, I wouldn't be here."

"A lot of people knocked our bipartisan delegation," he added, recalling the unusual "nonaggression pact" that existed in the late 1980s among Republican delegates in northern Baltimore County; their Democratic state senator, Francis X. Kelly; and Mr. Ruppersberger.

Although party loyalists on both sides criticized them at the time, Mr. Ruppersberger noted, three of the participants have won nominations for more prestigious posts in the November general election.

Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey is the GOP nominee for governor, while Mr. Ehrlich is the Republican congressional nominee and Mr. Ruppersberger is running for executive.

The 48-year old councilman said he'll take a few days off to relax in Ocean City and then start working on the general election. A $100 a ticket fund-raiser at the Towson Center is already scheduled for Oct. 13, he said.

While Mr. Ruppersberger enjoyed his primary victory, Mr. Hayden's campaign suffered a blow when his ticket-mate and political mentor, Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, lost her bid for the gubernatorial nomination to Mrs. Sauerbrey.

That loss has left him scrambling to fill any holes created in his organization by the change of fortunes, and considering what the change at the top of the GOP ticket will do to own ability to draw conservative county Democrats to his banner for a second time.

While Mrs. Bentley was popular among conservative Democrats, particularly in the county's blue-collar eastern precincts, Mrs. Sauerbrey does not have those ties.

"I think it is going to have an impact," Mr. Ruppersberger said. "As far as workers, it will hurt him."

Mr. Hayden, who has a $250 per ticket fund-raiser scheduled Sept. 26, refused to speak with a Sun reporter yesterday. But other Republicans argued that the impact would be minimal.

"I don't see any major problem," said county GOP Central Committee Chairman Kent Swanson.

County Council Chairman William A. Howard 4th, said the critical element will be Republicans' ability to stick together and resist the temptation to fight among themselves.

"It's the Republican Party's chance to put its past record [of discord] behind it," he said.

Both sides, acknowledge the strength of Mr. Ruppersberger's well-organized, well-financed campaign organization.

It showed up in his easy primary victory over Councilman Melvin G. Mintz of Pikesville.

In crucial eastern areas, Mr. Ruppersberger swept virtually every precinct from Falls Road to Dundalk.

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