GAITHERSBURG – Republican Robin Ficker made it official Thursday: After campaigning for a year and a half, the former state delegate announced that he is running for the U.S. Senate in 2000.
Ficker, known best for his Montgomery County tax referendums and his stint as an NBA heckler, said he is running because the state needs a more active representative than Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore.
“I think he’s aloof,” Ficker said at the Shady Grove Metro station, one of four campaign stops across the state Thursday. “He’s had his opportunity, and he’s been there too long. I think it’s time for a change.”
But that change won’t come easily. Sarbanes, currently serving his fourth term, is way ahead of his early opponents, according to an October poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research in Columbia.
That poll predicted that Sarbanes would win 60 percent of the votes in a race against Ficker, who would get only 25 percent.
The poll also predicted that Ficker will lose the March primary against Paul Rappaport, a Howard County Republican who announced for Senate last month. The poll gave Rappaport 45 percent of the primary vote to Ficker’s 17 percent, with 38 percent undecided.
Brad Coker, managing director for Mason-Dixon, said Ficker is hindered by a lack of recognition.
“I think he’ll have an uphill battle in the Republican primary, especially since Rappaport has already run statewide twice,” Coker said.
Rappaport, who ran for lieutenant governor in 1994 and attorney general in 1998, refused to comment on the poll or Ficker’s announcement Thursday, saying only that he was “looking forward to” the primary.
“The problem for Ficker is that I don’t think he can get to the right of Rappaport on any of the issues,” Coker said. “But he could improve if he taps into an issue or two that stir the voters.”
At a series of news conferences around the state Thursday, Ficker laid out some of his campaign issues, which include expanding mass transit, making government “thrifty” and attracting more high-tech companies to Maryland.
Ficker’s campaign to this point has revolved mainly around shaking hands with voters throughout the state. He admitted he had not done much fund raising, but said he would be able to afford print and radio ads before the primary.
“I’m confident I’ll have enough to run a good campaign,” Ficker said.
Sarbanes, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, has already raised over $700,000, but he has still not officially declared that he is running for re-election.
But Ficker, who was a Democrat until 1976, said polls and money will not decide the race.
“I’m the only candidate from either party who’s been meeting the voters at all,” said Ficker, who filed for candidacy over a year ago. “When the word of my campaign gets out, I will prevail.”