Congressional candidates stump Harford as primary nears

The two candidates from Harford County for the Second Congressional District are continuing to campaign, while they also try to fulfill their duties at state legislators.

One of them, Del. Rick Impallaria, only formally announced his campaign last Thursday during a press conference in Annapolis, although he did file for the seat much earlier. Impallaria and Harford State Sen. Nancy Jacobs are in a four-way race for the Republican nomination that will be decided in the April 3 primary election.

Both say they believe they are the one candidate who can take on incumbent U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, and defeat him in November. Ruppersberger, a member of Congress since 2003, does not have a primary opponent.

The other GOP candidates are Larry Smith, Howard Orton, Vlad Degan and Ray Bly, none of whom has ties to Harford County.

Smith has been pressuring the other candidates to do debates, but other than that, the race seems relatively quiet for now.

"I am just talking about the issues that this elections is really going to be about, voting records and how people have voted on certain issues," Impallaria said late last week. "I am running as a conservative person, and we have everything in place to move forward to this campaign."

Impallaria said he has been doing "the old-fashioned door-to-door" campaigning, "no robo calls," and said he has talked to more than 4,000 voters.

"The biggest issue is going to be who is going to have the wherewithal to go forward and run a serious campaign," he said. "I am up to it and I am used to it... I believe out of the candidates, I am the one who is going to go after Dutch the hardest and get into his voting record."

Jacobs likewise said last Thursday that Ruppersberger's plans like the voter-rejected attempt to give himself eminent domain to redevelop parts of the Baltimore County in 2000 are still distancing voters. At the, Ruppersberger was serving as the Baltimore County executive.

"A lot of people are really disenfranchised with Ruppersberger," she said. "I was the only senator to stand up on the floor and fight [the eminent domain plan]."

"I feel confident," Jacobs said, adding she has the endorsement of "any Republican who is anybody."

"The leadership of the Republican party is really pulling for me," she said.

Jacobs said she just launched her campaign headquarters on Route 7 in Rosedale, and now has plenty of full-time staff members, including employees to handle public affairs and social media.

"We have hundreds of people who have already volunteered, whether to go door to door or manning the polls," she said.

Most of the voters in the Second District reside in either southern Harford County or in eastern and north central Baltimore County. The district also takes in parts of northern Anne Arundel and northern Howard counties.

Ruppersberger has had little difficulty in winning his previous five terms in a district that has a heavy Democratic registration majority.

First district

Most of central and northern Harford County is represented in the First Congressional District, which also covers the Eastern Shore counties.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Andy Harris is the only Republican in the race. One other candidate, Marc Cohen of Stevensville, is running unaffiliated, which means he will only compete in the general election.

The Democratic candidates who are competing include John LaFerla from Chestertown, Kim Letke from Joppa and Wendy Rosen from Cockeysville.

John LaFerla, 63, is a New England native who has been practicing obstetrics and gynecology for more than 10 years.

He has been president of the Kent County Democratic Club and chair of the Kent County Democratic Central Committee, and said he thinks Congress needs a change.

"The reason I am running is because the country is in bad shape, and the Tea Party Republicans are stuck in Congress, and we need strong voices to counteract that," he said. "I think especially the basic problem is our economy, and the shift that's happened of moving our wealth to the very wealthy. We have to find ways of making it more fair."

LaFerla said he has also been at a few meetings in Bel Air and Aberdeen, and his campaign manager was in Harford County on Monday.

"I am definitely out in Harford County," he said.

"I don't believe our current representatives in Congress have done a very good job of getting back to their constituents," he said in reference to Harris. "I don't think he is really listening."

Rosen, 57, is focusing on small businesses and calls herself the leading advocate for the "Made in America" movement, having founded the American Made Alliance and organizing shows with American-made goods.

She also advocates for more than 125,000 micro-enterprise artist studios and 20,000 retail studios specializing in American-made products, according to her Facebook profile.

Rosen is president of The Rosen Group, Inc., a trade association for American crafts, and identifies as a "former Republican, now proud moderate Democrat."

"What I realized is, every time there is a piece of legislation that sounded wonderful, lobbyists come in and mess with it," she said. "We really need someone in Congress representing the small businesses and there is nobody. Nobody in this Congress understands Main Street."

Rosen said something must be done to open up credit for those businesses and help them re-establish themselves. She said those laws are on the books but need to be enforced.

"We need to do something to help those businesses prepare to run again," she said. "I see that we are just on the cusp of creating a whole new economy. I have been a job creator for 30 years, I really want to be there to help out. We don't need more doctors and lawyers in Congress."

Rosen also dismissed her two Democratic competitors as not campaigning full-time.

"I have been campaigning full-time since December," she said, adding she believes she has made progress with Republican women on the Eastern Shore.

Rosen became a registered Democrat seven years. She has been dissatisfied with the Republican Party since the Ronald Reagan administration ended.

"There is some dissatisfaction among Republican women across the country," she said. "I deal with issues that neither Democrats or Republicans are paying attention to, and issues that are important to this economy, that these parties have neglected the smallest businesses in our country."

The third Democrat is Kim Letke, 50, of Joppa, who said her experience as a government contractor for 25 years gives her insight into problems facing the government. Letke is the only Harford resident in the race.

"I am running because I am concerned about the middle class... I think I can help people get jobs," Letke said. "A lot of people are not happy with Andy Harris being arrogant, not getting anything accomplished."

Letke, who has designed industrial and commercial projects for various government agencies, said she once called Harris to ask about partnering on a contract at Aberdeen Proving Ground and got no response.

She said the government could save money in the way it paints bridges and by not having state troopers get paid overtime to sit along highways.

"I think there's a lot of questions that I have as a government contractor," she said. "The only reason I decided to run was I saw this guy in my neighborhood who lost his home... and I see other houses that are sitting vacant, the banks are just letting those houses sit."

"My position is, I am trying to help people who want to help themselves," Letke said.

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