Rasmussen sees room to right if he runs

The Political Game

Democrat: The former Baltimore County executive is leaning toward running for the U.S. Senate as a social moderate and fiscal conservative.

August 23, 2005|By Andrew A. Green and David Nitkin | Andrew A. Green and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

SAYING HE THINKS there's room to run to the right in the Democratic primary, former Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen said he is "very much leaning toward" running in the U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

He said he has done polling and was pleased with the results - although he wouldn't say what they were - and is working on fundraising and outreach to community leaders.

He and the two major declared Democratic candidates, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, all spent time in Ocean City last week working to drum up support at the Maryland Association of Counties conference. Socialist A. Robert Kaufman is also in the race.

Rasmussen, a former delegate and state senator born in Essex, said he would run as a social moderate and fiscal conservative, a combination that he believes presents the best chance for Democrats against presumed Republican candidate Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

"That separates me from the two announced candidates, who have pretty much been actively involved with the far left of the Democratic Party," said Rasmussen, 58. "The majority of Democrats in Maryland, I believe, are moderates."

Mfume rejected yesterday the notion that his views were extreme, saying most voters eschew labels and prefer common-sense solutions. He said his support for ending the war in Iraq and bringing troops home promptly, for reproductive rights for women and for promoting a balanced federal budget was in keeping with the views of most Marylanders.

"We need an old-fashioned campaign, and not a coronation. There ought to be an array of ideas placed before voters," Mfume said.

Cardin's campaign declined to comment.

When Rasmussen lost his re-election attempt as county executive in 1990, it wasn't because he had a reputation as a moderate. Parodied as "Taxmussen," he was blamed for ballooning spending and taxes that led to a fiscal crisis in the county.

Ruppersberger has advice for Israeli prime minister

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger's seat on the House Intelligence Committee has taken him far from his roots in Baltimore County. He spent time this month in the Gaza Strip, where he and other congressmen met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the eve of the forced removal of Jewish settlers from that territory.

Ruppersberger said he told Sharon he knew what it was like to take an unpopular stand on something he believed was right - in Ruppersberger's case it was his attempt to use condemnation to spur revitalization on the county's east side, a plan that was rejected by the voters. He said he told Sharon to stick to his principles.

"I told him you have got to lead when you believe you're doing the right thing for your people," Ruppersberger said.

Conventions no problem for bicoastal lobbyist

This year's conference of the Maryland Association of Counties presented a challenge for lobbyists who wanted face time with lawmakers. For the first time in memory, MACO was scheduled at the same time as the National Conference of State Legislatures in Seattle. More than 60 Maryland lawmakers flew to the left coast as Del. John A. Hurson, a Montgomery County Democrat, wrapped up his year as head of the group.

For schmoozer Bruce C. Bereano, the scheduling conflict was surmountable, if tiring. He was in Seattle last Monday through Wednesday, then caught a red-eye flight to Maryland. Why go to so much trouble?

"There were 70 Maryland legislators there [in Seattle]," Bereano said. "I had to be with them."

Bereano uses personal contacts and parties as marketing tools, but others looking to make a splash at MACO chose other tactics.

At the annual crab feast along the Assawoman Bay, an event that saw Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, Cardin and others aggressively working the tables, the lobbying firm of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan and Silver turned to a new tactic. They had their names emblazoned on the red plastic beer cups that were grasped firmly in hundreds of hands.

In the convention center hall, everyone was talking about the life-size, vividly printed cardboard cutouts of Ehrlich and Steele that greeted visitors to the rows of booths rented by state agencies. Some passers-by even stopped to have their pictures taken with the facsimiles.

With ocean as backdrop, party lines tend to blur

Democrats and Republicans have a hard time getting along in Annapolis these days, but apparently not in Ocean City. During MACO, several prominent Republicans crashed the Democrats' annual party at a bar there, much to the amusement of both sides.

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