Ruppersberger steps onto campaign trail

Balto. County executive seeks seat in Congress

April 30, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Flanked by 175 green-shirted supporters screaming, "Go Dutch!" Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger officially announced his run for Congress in the newly drawn 2nd District yesterday.

At a morning rally at Edgemere Elementary School, the first school built during Ruppersberger's eight years as executive, the Democrat highlighted his 17 years of experience in local government by saying he knows firsthand how difficult it can be to solve local problems with federal dollars, and he pledged to bring Washington closer to Baltimore neighborhoods.

"Money to help local governments gets shoved through too many funnels - it takes too long to get where it's supposed to go," he said. "Local jurisdictions ought to have some say over how federal dollars are used. Different communities have different needs. Their voices deserve to be heard."

Term limits prevent Ruppersberger from running for county executive again, and as thoughts of a gubernatorial run faded in the fall, he hinted that he would be interested in running for Congress if Gov. Parris N. Glendening could draw a seat favorable to a Democrat in the once-a-decade redistricting process.

He did, and with 2nd District incumbent Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. seeking the Republican nomination for governor, Ruppersberger became the instant front-runner.

The Democratic political establishment has begun to line up behind him. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes endorsed Ruppersberger yesterday morning, as did Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who was scheduled to appear at the rally but couldn't because of storm damage in his county, has endorsed Ruppersberger's candidacy.

Throughout the day, Ruppersberger appeared with and was endorsed by various delegates and state senators from the city and Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

"He's a real fighter, he's a real worker and he's a real person," Mikulski said. "He's not one of these sprayed, helmet-head, look-at-me-I'm-so-good-looking politicians."

O'Malley said he would relish the opportunity to work with someone in Congress who knows what is involved in governing on the local level. "He understands local government, and he understands the tremendous waste of time and money when things have to be routed to the state before they come to the local government," he said.

After the rally at the school, Ruppersberger and a busload of supporters hit the campaign trail, heading to parts of the district in the city and Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

Although Ruppersberger's record is well-known in Baltimore County, people he met in other parts of the district typically knew little about him beyond his name. City residents at the Cherry Hill Senior Life Center, Ruppersberger's second stop, grilled the candidate on the need for prescription drug benefits, better public transportation and a supermarket in their community.

"I had heard the name, but I didn't know anything about him," said Della Britt-Golden, who was at the senior center. "I hope he keeps in touch with us other than just before elections." Ruppersberger's reception in Cherry Hill improved markedly when campaign aide Chris Povloski showed up with an armload of "Go Dutch" T-shirts. By the time he left, half of Cherry Hill was clad in green.

In Anne Arundel County, the bus stopped at Mikie's, a restaurant run by former state senator Michael Wagner, where Ruppersberger picked up endorsements from Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens and Sheriff George F. Johnson IV.

The Rev. Bill Gohl Jr., pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Glen Burnie, was eating a Caesar salad when Ruppersberger walked in. He used to work in a church near the Baltimore-Baltimore County line in Fullerton and he said his former parishioners spoke highly of Ruppersberger. "He's a beloved man in Baltimore County," Gohl said. "The quest will be for him to get known in the other counties and for us to get to know him."

At the lunch counter, John W. Boring of Arnold and Joe Black of Crownsville said they'd heard of Ruppersberger but wondered who else is running.

One other Democrat, investment banker Oz Bengur, has entered the race. One Republican is eyeing the race: former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley. Del. James F. Ports Jr. was considering a run, but yesterday he announced his candidacy for the Baltimore County Council.

At the mention of Bentley's name, Boring's face lit up. "She's an old warhorse. She's a tough bird, and the state needed more people like her" when she was in office, he said.

Bentley said yesterday that she is near a decision but is negotiating with the national party about potential committee assignments, whether she would get to keep the seniority she earned during her previous stint in Congress, and other matters.

The last stop of the day was at the Aberdeen branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.