Ports to run for 5th District council seat

Race could be toughest in county after redistricting

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

Del. James F. Ports Jr., the Perry Hall Republican who debated County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger in a series of debates over east-side revitalization, announced yesterday that he will run for County Council in the 5th District.

The race is likely to be the most contentious in the county - the redistricting plan the council approved last year having put incumbents Wayne M. Skinner, a Towson Republican, and Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, in the same district.

Skinner has already filed for re-election, and Gardina appears to be gearing up for a run.

Ports had been considering runs for Congress, county executive and County Council, but he said his first priority is helping U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich, a Republican, win the race for governor.

While his decision guarantees a Republican primary for the council seat, it prevents potentially divisive primaries in two higher-profile races - Congress and county executive.

With Ports and former legislator and two-time gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey out of the 2nd District congressional race, former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley appears to have a clear shot at the Republican nomination. She said yesterday she is nearing a decision on whether to run.

Ports had been contemplating challenging fellow Republican Douglas B. Riley in the race for county executive.

Ports said that in addition to helping Ehrlich, his decision was motivated by a desire to spend more time with his children and by responses to surveys he and campaign volunteers have circulated in recent months. Most people surveyed said they thought Ports should be in local government and away from "that black hole in D.C.," he said.

Constituent service is one of his favorite things about government, Ports said, and the County Council offers plenty of opportunities to perform that.

"I've never sloughed stuff off to another level of government, I've always taken it on myself," he said. "I think people recognize that as unique, and I think people recognize that as special and they like it."

The 5th District runs from the eastern edge of the county through Perry Hall to Towson. Since the boundaries were finalized last summer, Ports has worked on a number of issues important to Towson voters and shown up at several community meetings in the county seat.

He has worked with activists opposed to expansion of the county jail in Towson. And he and Del. A. Wade Kach, a fellow Republican, played host to a series of meetings in the fall to develop a new redistricting procedure, something many Towson activists called for last summer.

Skinner, who has filed for re-election, said he had been preparing for his race as if Ports were in it. "When I ran in '98, we had a tough primary, we had a hard campaign, and we prevailed," he said. "We'll just do the same thing we did back in '98, except this time I have a record I can run on."

Gardina said he is still evaluating whether to run for County Council or for some other office. Ports' announcement doesn't affect his deliberations, Gardina said.

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