Dundalk's Mohorovic taking on big job with congressional run

January 13, 2000|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Del. Jacob J. Mohorovic Jr.'s grandfather was a coal miner, his father a steel worker.

Following in their footsteps, the Democratic legislator from Dundalk has taken on a difficult job of his own -- challenging a political opponent many see as unbeatable.

On Saturday, Mohorovic will be surrounded by family and friends when he formally declares his candidacy for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican political star with a hefty campaign treasury and incumbency on his side.

"I'm not intimidated by my opponent's money, I'll just work harder," Mohorovic, who represents the 7th District, said yesterday.

Mohorovic, 49, joins a handful of relatively unknown candidates who are challenging Ehrlich. They include Democrats Kenneth T. Bosley, Raymond D. Burke, Edward J. Hornzell and Walter Thomas Kuebler, and Leroy E. Weekley, who is unaffiliated. There are no Republican challengers.

"It's all uphill for Jake," said Hazel Kroen, a longtime political and community activist on Baltimore County's east side who has known the Mohorovic family for decades. "He has to raise loads of money, but all of his fund-raisers have been rather inexpensive."

In contrast to the high-powered world of Washington politics, where money flows freely, Mohorovic recently held a $20-a-plate fund-raiser at a Dundalk restaurant.

"We've figured out a budget and we'll need about $750,000 to run a good campaign," said Mohorovic, noted for being responsive to constituents.

Another veteran political hand in Dundalk, Thomas Toporovich, said that in launching a campaign, Mohorovic risks little while gaining valuable exposure.

"Jake retains his seat in the House of Delegates while running against Ehrlich," Toporovich said. When Mohorovic defends his house seat in 2002, "he'll have a greater name recognition. Actually, it's a smart political move, but he'll need a lot of luck to defeat Ehrlich."

Added fellow Dundalk Democrat and County Councilman John Olszewski Sr.: "You never say never, but Jake has a tough battle on his hands."

Mohorovic, a management specialist for the state Department of Business and Economic Development, doesn't worry Ehrlich.

"I haven't paid much attention to those who have filed against me," Ehrlich, who is serving his third term, said yesterday. "An election is pretty much a referendum on the incumbent and I feel strong about getting re-elected."

The conservative congressman said he has about $700,000 in his re-election coffers.

Mohorovic, married and the father of three teen-agers, was elected to the House of Delegates in 1994 and re-elected in 1998.

He said he's challenging Ehrlich "because I've worked hard to be a constituency-based public official. I was the top vote-getter in two elections in my district and I think I can expand that to the Congress."

The Maryland primary, which includes presidential candidates, is March 7. The general election is Nov. 7.

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