Bishop's valiant candidacy Baltimore County: Republican didn't think Ruppersberger should go unchallenged.

September 04, 1998

A BLANK SPACE. That's what some Republican Party leaders preferred to leave on the GOP ballot for Baltimore County executive. Don't field a candidate, they warned. It will "rile up Dutch," meaning C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the Democratic incumbent. It "could harm Ellen," meaning Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the Republican front-runner who must do well in her home county to unseat Gov. Parris N. Glendening in November.

John J. Bishop, a Parkville mortgage broker and state delegate from 1986-1994, isn't that cynical. He believes it would be undemocratic for voters not to have a choice for the top job in Baltimore County government. He's right, and deserves credit for providing a credible alternative.

Still, Mr. Bishop, 50, recognizes the gargantuan road ahead to unseat Mr. Ruppersberger, 52. In a year that seems to favor most incumbents, the Republican will be running against a popular, well-financed officeholder.

Some folks wonder if Mr. Bishop could pull an upset, as Republican Roger B. Hayden did eight years ago when he beat Dennis F. Rasmussen. However, the electorate isn't seething now, as in 1990.

Mr. Ruppersberger has focused on older communities that felt neglected. The Democratic incumbent is less vulnerable to a conservative tide, based on the fact he ran well as a councilman in the conservative Republican north county. Too, Baltimore County residents are more realistic than at the start of the decade about the problems of an aging suburb.

Mr. Bishop's main issues are high taxes and threats posed to the government's merit system. In the General Assembly, he was a moderate on social issues but conservative on fiscal matters. He became a strong voice for ethics-in-government laws. Mr. Bishop is a thoughtful candidate who gives voters unhappy with Mr. Ruppersberger a way to act on their beliefs. Without that, county government and democracy would be diminished.

Baltimore County executive

Candidates: Democrat C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III and Republican John J. Bishop have uncontested primaries.

Data: 1994 primary turnout: 43% of Democrats and 39% of Republicans. Salary: $105,000. Term: four years.

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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