COLLEGE PARK – Republican Jane Brooks and Democrat Oz Bengur appear to have little in common, but they do share one trait.
Neither one is eager for a rematch with Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, for the 2nd District seat in Congress.
“I tried. I gave it my best effort,” said Brooks, who managed only 30 percent of the vote against Ruppersberger in the 2004 general election. “But I don’t believe that it’s doable in the district.”
While Brooks said she often spent 16 hours a day to run her grass-roots campaign, Bengur is still nursing a $575,700 debt from a failed Democratic primary bid against Ruppersberger in 2002. Instead of running again in the 2nd District, he has formed an exploratory committee to consider a bid for the open seat in District 3.
“I was an unknown candidate the first time around,” Bengur said of his 2002 bid. “I’m not a household name, but I’m much better known.”
Compare that to Ruppersberger, a former Baltimore County executive now in his second term in Congress who, with more than a year until the election, has already raised $277,095, according to his most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission.
But aides said Ruppersberger is not focused on next year’s election, concentrating instead on representing his constituents.
“We feel the best way to campaign is to do the job that you are elected to do,” said Heather Molino, a spokeswoman for Ruppersberger.
And officials with both parties said there is not yet a race for Ruppersberger to worry about even if he wanted to.
Derek Walker, a spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party, said there had been some interest among possible successors when Ruppersberger was considering a bid for Senate, but that talk stopped when he announced his bid for a third term in the House.
“I don’t expect any serious primary challenge,” Walker said. “He’s earned the voter’s trust and the right to another term.”
Maryland Republican Party spokeswoman Audra Miller said she was not aware of any District 2 candidates, but stressed that it is still early in the campaign.
And both Brooks and Bengur said fund raising will be even more of a challenge in 2006.
“There’s a governor’s race, a U.S. Senate race and congressional races. Raising money in this environment is never an easy task,” Bengur said.
Both parties concede that certain races will take precedence next year.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition between candidates in both parties this cycle because there are so many high-profile races,” Walker explained.
Miller said each race is important for the GOP, but that “re-electing the governor is our No. 1 priority.”
Brooks said she learned that a campaign’s bank account is very important in winning elections, and one reason she will not run again is because of the intense competition to get contributions this cycle.
“Money is a major issue,” Brooks said. “Unfortunately that is how you get your message out.”
But money is not the only issue for Brooks, who said the campaign was too emotionally draining.
“I had a son in Iraq at the same time I was campaigning and it was very heart-wrenching,” said Brooks, whose son is home now but scheduled to be deployed again.
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