Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Jan. 31, 1946, Baltimore .
Education: U. of MD, 1963-67, U of Baltimore, J.D. 1970.
Family: Married (Kay); 2 children.
Elected office: Baltimore Cnty. Cncl. 1986-94; Baltimore Cnty. exec., 1994-2002.
Professional Career: Prosecutor, Baltimore Cnty. State's Atty. Office, 1970-75.
The congressman from the 2nd District is Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat elected in 2002 in a district drawn specifically for him. Ruppersberger grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland, and graduated from the University of Baltimore Law School. Working as a Baltimore County assistant state’s attorney, Ruppersberger had a near-fatal car accident in 1975 while investigating a drug-trafficking case. In 1986, he won a seat on the Baltimore County Council; in 1994, he was elected Baltimore County executive, a position once held by Republican Vice President Spiro Agnew.
|Dutch Ruppersberger (D)||198,578||(72%)||($636,162)|
|Richard Matthews (R)||68,561||(25%)||($9,836)|
|Lorenzo Gaztanaga (Lib)||8,786||(3%)|
|Dutch Ruppersberger (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (69%), 2004 (67%), 2002 (54%)
Barred from seeking a third term in 2002, Ruppersberger seriously considered running for governor. But he was dissuaded by state party leaders who felt he was too politically vulnerable at the time. In 2000, he had backed a plan to give him the power of eminent domain to redevelop large pieces of the county, but in a resounding rebuke, voters rejected it 2-to-1 in a referendum. Compounding the situation for Ruppersberger was a damaging story in The Baltimore Sun saying that he had given county work to a firm to which he had financial ties. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, became the gubernatorial candidate, while Ruppersberger got a favorable district for a House run when Democrats redrew the congressional map. However, he was still weakened politically and faced a primary fight. His little-known opponent, investment banker Osman (Oz) Bengur, spent more than $500,000 of his own money. But the state’s Democratic establishment lined up behind Ruppersberger, and he won 50%-36%. The fall campaign was not much easier. The open seat attracted former Republican Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, who held the 2nd District seat for a decade until she ran, unsuccessfully, for governor in 1994. Bentley was 78 years old, but she offered an energetic campaign. With a strong record of constituent service and cross-party popularity, she had a chance to overcome the new district’s Democratic leanings. Both candidates supported additional dredging of shipping channels in the Chesapeake Bay plus increased port security. Ruppersberger won, 54%-46%. His popular-vote margin was more than 13,000 in the small part of the district in Baltimore city, which he carried 79%-21%, and only 3,000 in the rest of the district.
In the House, Ruppersberger has had the least liberal voting record among Democrats from Maryland. With the help of Baltimore native and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he became the first freshman appointed to the Intelligence Committee, where he called for expanded oversight of the intelligence agencies and for shifting resources from the Iraq war to terrorist “safe havens” in Afghanistan. He initiated Operation Hero Miles to facilitate the use of frequent-flyer miles to assist U.S. troops in Iraq traveling home on civilian airlines during the Christmas season, and made the program permanent by including it in the Defense Department spending bill. Concerned about the potential sale of shipping operations at the Port of Baltimore to the United Arab Emirates, he helped to enact port-security legislation. In 2007, he got a seat on the Appropriations Committee, a useful assignment for his government-dependent district. In his first year, he worked on appropriating money for the protection of Chesapeake Bay. He also focused on expanding math and science schools near Fort Meade for the expected influx of specialized workers.
Ruppersberger has been re-elected easily. His earlier statewide ambitions have dimmed with the election of other Baltimore-area Democrats to vacant seats for governor and the Senate.