By Sandy Alexander
WASHINGTON – Bruce Ross fought the law and the law yawned.
Ross, a Beltsville resident and candidate for Congress, defied postal regulations by putting his campaign fliers in the mailboxes of 5th District residents. When four post offices asked him to stop, he challenged the U.S. Postal Service to take him to court.
“Please take me to court for whatever charges that you feel I am guilty of,” Ross wrote in a letter to three postmasters.
But, a legal showdown is unlikely.
U.S. Postal Service spokesman David Lewin said it is “possible, but improbable” that the agency would take an individual to court over this type of issue. The office prefers to work with customers to find a solution, he said.
Ross contends that by telling him to stop, the post office violated his right to free speech and his civil right to run a campaign, and that it asserted authority over people’s mailboxes, where it has no jurisdiction.
But Lewin said the postal system does have jurisdiction over what goes in mailboxes, and anything without postage is simply not allowed.
Laurel Postmaster Fred Snyder said his office, which called Ross and asked him to stop using mailboxes for his fliers, has no plans to pursue the matter further.
Snyder said it is not uncommon for people to put fliers in mailboxes. The usual procedure is to explain the situation and make the offender aware of options such as bulk-mail rates, he said.
Ross hand-delivered the fliers as part of his campaign to unseat Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, in the March 7 Democratic primary. Ross said he delivered two fliers to around 6,000 residents of the Laurel and Beltsville areas. One outlined 12 campaign platforms, and the other contained contact information for his campaign.
He said post offices in Laurel, Beltsville and West River called to ask him to stop. Ross moved on to other areas — not because of Postal Service threats, he said, but because he had already accomplished his goal in the first communities.
He continued to target new neighborhoods until his car broke down, making it impossible to spread his fliers in Calvert County.
“I would take this to the Supreme Court,” said Ross, who called on the Postal Service to sue him because he did not suffer damages that would allow him to sue them.
“It’s big government against the regular person,” Ross said. “I am running on a very, very tight budget.”
Ross said distributing fliers in person was a good way to meet people and to challenge Hoyer, who he said has not been campaigning visibly in the area.
Hoyer’s campaign chairman countered with a faxed statement that the Hoyer for Congress campaign is “working hard to ensure that the voting sites will be covered and there is a good operation to get our voters to the polls.”
“It’s not an easy win,” said Ross, but “I do think I have a serious chance.”