WASHINGTON – Oz Bengur, an investment banker and treasurer of the Maryland Democratic Party, released a written statement Wednesday announcing his candidacy for the 3rd Congressional District seat.
Bengur, 56, who ran against Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, from the 2nd Congressional District in 2002, said “a confluence of events” led him to renew his bid for Congress.
He wants to replace U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, who is running for the seat held by retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes’, D-Md.
Bengur’s strong dissatisfaction with the country’s direction led him to seek Cardin’s seat.
“I felt somebody needs to start speaking out,” Bengur said in a later interview. “If not me, then who?”
Bengur, who will step down as party treasurer as soon as a replacement is named, called himself the only candidate with a strong business background, a child serving in the military in Iraq and the willingness to oppose Republican stances on the Iraq war, education and the environment.
“Democrats have to speak up with alternatives and come up with new ideas,” Bengur said in an interview with Capital News Service. “That’s what I have done in my career and that’s what I will do when I’m elected.”
During his 20 years in investment banking, Bengur helped state and local governments, their agencies and other companies secure millions of dollars in financing, including deals to develop low- to moderate-income housing in Maryland, he said. He serves as a senior adviser for Bengur Bryan & Co. Inc., a Baltimore-based investment banking firm he co-founded in 1991.
“Knowing how to run companies, knowing how to balance budgets, knowing how to make payroll” are important skills at a time of budgetary crisis in the country, said Greg Shaffer, Bengur’s campaign manager.
Bengur also helped develop alternative treatments for juvenile offenders and served on the boards of community organizations like the Baltimore Parks & People Foundation and the Baltimore County Public Library, Bengur said.
The Iraq war is a personal issue for Bengur, whose son, Noah, is a Marine lieutenant stationed at an air base west of Baghdad since late August, he said.
“Iraq affects me like nobody else in the race,” Bengur said. “I have a deep concern for the lack of direction that this administration has in Iraq.”
Withdrawing troops immediately from Iraq is not a realistic goal, Bengur said. Instead, he wants the administration to re-examine the objectives of the Iraq war.
“We have to have a realistic assessment of what we’re trying to accomplish there, not platitudes about stopping terrorism,” Bengur said, adding that Iraq harbored no terrorists before the U.S. invasion. “I think we’re doing a disservice to the Marines, soldiers and sailors over there.”
The last time he ran for Congress, Bengur raised about $200,000 from individual contributions and spent about $585,000 of his own money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
This time, Bengur has raised more than $100,000 in just the last month, Shaffer said, and his campaign doesn’t foresee him having to use “a dime” of his own funds.
Raised in Montgomery County by a Turkish father and American mother, Bengur, whose first name is short for Osman, received a bachelor’s degree in English from Princeton University and a graduate degree in criminology from Cambridge University in England. He is separated from his wife and has three children.
“Oz adds to the list of great candidates in the 3rd District,” said Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party. “The people in the 3rd District can’t go wrong with who they’re going to send to Congress.”
Bengur, who moved to Timonium in the 2nd District during his run against Ruppersberger, has lived in Rodgers Forge in the 3rd District for the last two years, Shaffer said. The 3rd District includes the city of Baltimore and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties.
The day before Bengur’s announcement, The (Baltimore) Sun reported that John Sarbanes, the senator’s son, told supporters he will also announce a run for Cardin’s seat.
Other Democratic candidates include former Baltimore Health Commissioner D. Peter Beilenson, state Sen. Paula Hollinger, D-Baltimore County, and Delegate Neil Quinter, D-Howard.
Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens and Delegate Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, the congressman’s nephew, are considering bids.
Republican candidates include Scott Conwell, a Crofton lawyer, and Robert Duckworth, circuit court clerk for Anne Arundel County.