John J. Bishop's struggle to unseat Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger was never more evident than last night as the two stood in the huge, sparkling new Western School of Technology gymnasium at a candidates forum in Catonsville.
With the oversized room testimony to the millions that Ruppersberger has pumped into school repairs and additions in nearly every area of the county, the Democratic incumbent held aloft a thick copy of a consultant's study calling for $213 million more repairs to county elementary schools.
"I hope to be elected because I want to finish what we started," Ruppersberger told about 50 residents. He repeated his list of priorities -- public safety, schools, strengthening older neighborhoods and economic growth.
Bishop, the Republican challenger who has only a few thousand dollars to get his message out, sought to put Ruppersberger on the defensive.
The former two-term state delegate from Parkville called for cutting income taxes and criticized Ruppersberger's claims about the thousands of new jobs that the incumbent's policies have created and the many alleys he has had repaved.
"Baltimore County has some problems," Bishop said.
He noted that large numbers of firefighters are expected to retire next year, that many of the new jobs pay less than the average county wage, and that residents who get new alleys have to pay part of the cost in additional taxes.
"It's not all as rosy" as the executive says, Bishop told the audience. He called for reducing the county's income tax rate that was raised in 1992 to compensate for recession-driven state budget cuts.
"I'm going to return that 5 percent [tax increase] back to the taxpayers," he said.
Last night's forum is one of two this week at which Ruppersberger and Bishop are scheduled to appear together.
Tonight, they are to be at Oak Crest Village Retirement Community in Parkville, where 8th Legislative District candidates and those running for Maryland attorney general also are invited.
Pub Date: 10/20/98