WASHINGTON – Second District Democrats Oz Bengur and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger expect to spend a total of $500,000 for TV ads this week,just part of a last-minute primary push that will include T-shirts,bumper stickers and hand-shaking.
With Tuesday’s 2nd District primary election looming, Ruppersberger’sads are focusing on his commitment to education and prescription drugsfor senior citizens, said campaign spokeswoman Shannon White, who saidthe will run on Fox, WBAL, WMAR and WJZ.
She said Ruppersberger, the two-term Baltimore County executive, will continue campaigning throughout election day, heading to district pollsand shaking hands.
“It makes a big difference,” she said. “He likes seeing people at the polls. It could give him a couple points.”
Bengur is also scheduled to have ads on all the major networks as wellas BET, TNT and Lifetime, said press secretary David Brown. The campaignalso will target African-American voters in a radio blitz over theweekend.
“We’re trying to present our candidate as an alternative to thebigwigs in the establishment,” Brown said. “We thought the DemocraticParty was premature in anointing a candidate.”
Brown said Bengur’s final efforts also include phone calling anddoor-to- door campaigning. Campaign workers will drive through thedistrict in four trucks with loudspeakers promoting Bengur.
“We think our chances are tremendous,” Brown said. “It’s all about election day. We’re cautiously optimistic and focused on winning theprimary.”
WBAL Radio political analyst Frank DeFilippo said the two Democratsare executing typical maneuvers for the last days of a primary election.
“The primary vote is one of organization. You organize your vote andget it out,” he said. “In a general election, it’s issues andpersonalities.”
The winner will likely face Republican candidate Helen Delich Bentley,who has no big-name opponent in the GOP primary and is biding her time.
Michael Kosmas, the managing director of Bentley’s campaign, said sheis out waving signs and attending public events, but is otherwiseconserving her promotional arsenal for a general election assault.
“We’ve been very visible. We’ve been out seven days a week,” Kosmassaid. “We’ve got the two Democratic candidates slinging mud at eachother. Not being a part of that on television makes us look better.”
Bentley, who held the 2nd District seat from 1984 to 1994, trailed Ruppersberger by two points in a July poll by Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications Inc.
Congressional leaders have guaranteed Bentley her former seat on theHouse Appropriations Committee, along with the seniority from her priorterms, if she wins in November. She could leverage that seniority intovotes by promising increased federal funding to Baltimore County,DeFilippo said.
He said he believes Ruppersberger will win the Democratic primary, butthe general election is up for grabs.
DeFilippo said Ruppersberger’s biggest hurdle is “lingeringresentment” over a law he backed in 2000 that would have let the countycondemn property in the Dundalk area and redevelop it into a waterfrontcommunity. The bill was petitioned to referendum in Baltimore County anddefeated.
The 2nd District is drawing national attention as Democrats battle topick up the handful of seats they need to regain control of Congress.Incumbent Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, is leaving the seat to run forgovernor. In the meantime, the district was redrawn this year to be muchmore heavily Democratic. Registered Democrats now account for two-thirdsof the district, which has been called one of the 12 most-watchedcongressional races in the nation.
Kosmas said Bentley will make a campaign issue of the redistricting,which he called a “desperate attempt by the party in power.” But she’slooking forward to the general election and expects a good fight,regardless of which Democrat she faces.
“Both parties will makes this a battlefield,” Kosmas said.