Ruppersberger Builds Big War Chest in Re-Election Bid

By ALLISON BOURG, Staff Writer
Capital Gazette Communications

Three Democratic candidates, including one from Anne Arundel County, are fighting to knock off a well-known and well-financed congressman in the 2nd District in next week’s primary election.

Jeffrey Morris, an accountant from Pasadena, is one of nine candidates from across the meandering district hoping to unseat U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Cockeysville. The election also has fielded five Republican candidates, all from Baltimore city and county, and one Libertarian. Republican Jimmy Mathis, also of Cockeysville, was the GOP nominee for District 2 in 2006.

Morris touts himself as a fiscally conservative Democrat who’s critical of President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan and the controversial health care reform bill.

Ruppersberger, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 2002 and is seeking his fifth term in office, voted in favor of these measures and others, Morris said.

“I woke up frustrated one day with the direction that Congress and the president have taken on fiscal matters,” said Morris, who describes himself as more liberal on social issues. “We cannot keep going with the debt and the deficit the way it is.”

The health care reform, he said, “has expense written all over it.” He’s also opposed to Congress’ pending cap and trade legislation, which would levy penalties against companies that use pollutants such as carbon and give that money to producers of green energy.

Ruppersberger, though, defended his past votes, saying they were meant to boost America out of a crippling recession.

“If we let the car industry go into bankruptcy … where would we be?” said Ruppersberger, who calls himself a moderate, pro-business Democrat. “It would have put us into a depression.”

The same thing was true of the health care legislation, he argued. Costs continue to escalate, and working families are paying more out their pockets to cover the uninsured.

“If we did nothing, that would have hurt our country,” he said.

Ruppersberger touts his years spent as a county councilman and then county executive in Baltimore County, and says that his experience in local government is an asset in D.C.

“I would hope that voters would judge me on my record, not the rhetoric,” Ruppersberger said.

District 2, with about 246,000 registered Democrats and 93,000 Republicans, encompasses sections of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties and part of Baltimore City.

Ruppersberger represents about 107,000 residents in Anne Arundel, including residents in parts of Pasadena, Glen Burnie, Brooklyn Park and Severn.

Ruppersberger, who sits on the House’s Appropriations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, noted that Anne Arundel is home to Fort George G. Meade and the National Security Agency.

Those remain two of his focuses, particularly with the base realignment and closure process expected to bring thousands of jobs to Fort Meade beginning next year.

He said his constituents in Anne Arundel County – who compose about 17 percent of the district – face the same issues as everyone else. The economy tops their list of concerns, along with quality-of-life issues such as roadway congestion.

Ruppersberger pointed to various job fairs he has sponsored throughout the district, which have attracted thousands of job seekers. A gang-awareness seminar in May in Brooklyn Park paired local law enforcement officials with representatives of the school district and area residents.

“People in Anne Arundel County have a lot of pride in their families and in their quality of life,” Ruppersberger said.

More than $1 million

As of June 30, the most recent deadline for filing campaign finance reports, Ruppersberger had $1.02 million in his campaign coffers, almost 10 times what his best-funded challenger has. Only two of his opponents have reported raising any money, according to the Federal Election Commission.

The congressman’s top contributor is defense giant Northrop Grumman, Anne Arundel’s largest private employer. According to campaign finance reports, Northrop Grumman has given Ruppersberger nearly $40,000 this year, the company’s third largest contribution to politicians.

That’s almost three times what Ruppersberger’s second biggest contributor, the Serco Group, gave him. Other top contributors are the Boeing Co., Computer Sciences Corp. and the International Association of Firefighters, which have each given him $10,000.

Republican Marcelo Cardarelli of Baltimore County had raised a total of $134,123, though $120,000 came from the candidate himself. He still had $106,101 on hand as of June 30.
Morris reported raising $5,050 and had $2,598 on hand on June 30.

The response from voters has been encouraging, Morris said. Many are just as disgusted as he is about the direction the country has taken.

“There is large opposition right now for Democrats, and an even larger one for incumbents,” he said.

‘Dutch is at home’

One political commentator, though, disagreed.

“I think most people view all incumbents as re-elected in Maryland,” said Blair Lee, a commentator on WBAL radio. He said the only exception this year could be Maryland’s 1st District, which is “taking all the attention” from other races in the state.

While money doesn’t always guarantee a win, Lee said, Ruppersberger has other advantages.
“Dutch is at home in his district, he’s well-liked, and I can’t even name his opponent,” Lee said. “I don’t think he’ll have a problem getting re-elected.”
Capital News Service contributed to this story.