One is a fourth-term state senator. The other, a small business owner. Though their political experience varies greatly, the two Republicans share the same goal: Unseat the Democratic incumbents in their congressional districts and make changes in the Capitol.
State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, of Harford County, is running against District 2 Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, of Baltimore County. A portion of Howard County, located along the southeastern edge of Howard from Elkridge to North Laurel, was added to District 2 in the redistricting process conducted last year.
"I feel like I'm on even footing with Dutch Ruppersberger in Howard County because he's never represented Howard County before," Jacobs told a crowd of about 40 at a Howard County Republican Club picnic/candidate rally Sunday, Sept. 16, held at Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge.
Frank Mirabile, a Woodbine resident who owns a commercial services landscape company, is running against District 7 Rep. Elijah Cummings, of Baltimore. Mirabile said the addition of a large chunk of northern Baltimore County to District 7 gives him a much better shot at beating Cummings than he had when he unsuccessfully ran against him in 2010.
"The gerrymandering actually benefited us," Mirabile said, noting the Republicans picked up 54,000 "new favorable votes" in Baltimore County alone.
"What's really great is most of the Democrats in northern Baltimore County, they're Reagan-style Democrats," or they don't like Cummings, he added.
Both candidates gave short speeches in which they took several jabs at their Democratic opponents and promised to bring change to Washington.
Jacobs said she has attended several community meetings and has heard from people that they've seen more of her in the past six months than they've seen of Ruppersberger in the past 10 years.
"He should hold town halls; he doesn't hold town halls," Jacobs said of Ruppersberger.
Ruppersberger, she said, is only spending time in the district now that he is running for re-election against an opponent with name recognition — something she said he hasn't had since his first campaign for Congress in 2002.
"I'm seeing him places I don't think he knew existed before now," Jacobs said.
Touting her base of support, Jacobs said she has raised twice as much in contributions as Ruppersberger among Maryland donors.
"Problem is he gets all his money from out-of-state PACs and special interests, where I get mine from citizens like you all," she said.
Ruppersberger's campaign manager, Jahantab Siddiqui, discounted Jacobs' claims. In an emailed statement, he said Ruppersberger believes that "elections should be run on record, not rhetoric. Any claim that Congressman Ruppersberger is unfamiliar with any part of his district is absolutely outrageous.
"He has been representing this region for more than two decades and routinely attends and hosts community meetings such as foreclosure workshops and small business seminars. Congressman Ruppersberger prides himself on second-to-none service to his constituents and is humbled by their support at the polls. In fact, the vast majority of individual donors to Congressman Ruppersberger's campaign this election cycle are Marylanders."
Addressing the issues, Jacobs talked about the need to create jobs and turn the economy around.
"A lot of businesses right now if they have any money at all, they're afraid to invest it in their business," she said.
Jacobs said Congress needs to work to get rid of the "stranglehold" government has on small businesses through laws and regulations.
"You have no idea how much damage can be done to a business through regulations," she said.
Mirabile also talked about the need to help small business owners, like himself.
"I know what working capital is; I know what it means to hire people," he said.
Cummings, he said, doesn't care about the business owners. As Jacobs said about Ruppersberger, Mirabile said Cummings is not present in his district, particularly in western Howard County.
"Most of the residents, if not all of them, especially the farmers, have never seen Elijah Cummings," he said.
Mirabile said he plans to be a "citizens' politician" who will bring residents' voice back to Washington.
"Who's in your wallet?" he asked the crowd. Answering his own question, Mirabile said the Democrats in Washington "have been deep in our wallets spending our money like it's water."
Eric Knowles, the Republican candidate running in District 3 against Democratic incumbent Rep. John Sarbanes, was unable to attend the rally.
School board hopeful
Bob Ballinger, one of six candidates for three open seats on the nonpartisan Board of Education, also spoke at the rally, discussing questions he's been asked during various candidate forums.
One of those questions is what he would do differently than the current board.
"The first thing I would do is stop suing each other, stop spending $60,000 as of now to remove a member," Ballinger said, citing the lawsuits and the board attempt to oust current school board member Allen Dyer.
He added, "I'm not going to be a person that holds grudges and be upset and call each other names. ... I'm going to be a team builder and a leader on the school board if I'm elected."
Ballinger, who has long been open about his Republican beliefs, also talked about his belief in school choice and wanting to create a school system budget that's more "fiscally sound."
In the coming months, the candidates will square off against their opponents in various debates and forums. The League of Women Voters of Howard County is holding a forum for school board candidates on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. in the school system's TV studio at the Applications and Research Lab in Ellicott City. A forum for congressional candidates is scheduled for Oct. 2. at 7 p.m. in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.