Re-election quest begins in Balto. Co. Ruppersberger quells talk about run for governor; Democrat is heavy favorite; Seeks second term, has no opponents, $800,000 to spend; CAMPAIGN 1998


Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger launched his re-election campaign yesterday under a huge green and yellow banner tied to the stone columns of Towson's old courthouse, virtually ending speculation that he might run for governor this year.

The 52-year-old Democrat enters the race a heavy favorite, with about $800,000 in the bank, no official opponent and hopes of exceeding his margin of victory four years ago, when he beat Republican incumbent Roger B. Hayden with 54 percent of the vote.

Yesterday, joined by family, friends and dozens of supporters -- including state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. and U.S. Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski -- the county executive reviewed his administration's accomplishments and pledged to keep up the momentum if elected.

"We are proud of our record of accomplishment since 1994, but our job is not complete. There is more to be done," Ruppersberger told the crowd.

Ruppersberger, who had been widely mentioned as a possible candidate for governor, has said that only some unpredictable, dramatic event would change his decision to seek re-election as county executive.

Absent from yesterday's event was Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who has praised Ruppersberger in the past and whose Democratic primary opponent, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, has the endorsement of Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The Ruppersberger and Glendening camps issued friendly statements about each other yesterday.

"I think Dutch is going to be good to people who are good to him, and Glendening has been good to Baltimore County," said Ruppersberger spokesman Michael H. Davis. Ruppersberger will make no endorsement before the July 6 filing deadline, Davis said.

Peter Hamm, spokesman for the Glendening campaign, said the NTC governor couldn't attend the Towson event because he was in Southern Maryland and was scheduled for a live radio talk show appearance in Washington.

"The governor thinks Dutch is doing a terrific job and fully supports his efforts," Hamm said.

Ruppersberger's support could be important to Glendening in the general election this year if Glendening faces Republican candidate and Baltimore County resident Ellen R. Sauerbrey. In 1994, Sauerbrey received 134,663 votes in Baltimore County to 102,398 for Glendening.

If he wins the Democratic nomination, the governor expects to dominate in Baltimore and in two counties, Prince George's and Montgomery. If he could cut into Sauerbrey's support in Baltimore County, the state's third-most-populous, it could decide the election.

No one has filed to run against Ruppersberger for county executive, although former two-term Republican Del. John J. Bishop has said he might run.

Even some Republicans concede that Ruppersberger is likely to win a second term. For him to lose, "A fluky thing would have to happen," said Del. Martha S. Klima, a Towson Republican.

"He's well-funded. He's been very smart," Klima said of Ruppersberger, noting that to beat him, "an awful lot of ill feelings or ill will would have to occur. I haven't seen that."

In making his announcement, Ruppersberger read a list of priorities, goals and achievements, including:

* 9,000 new classroom seats in county schools.

* Aggressive police tactics and additional officers that he said have helped reduce serious crime by 4 percent in the past two years.

* More new jobs in four years than in any other jurisdiction in Maryland.

* Millions of dollars spent to rebuild alleys and roads in older neighborhoods, buy parkland, renew playgrounds and demolish old, problem-riddled apartment complexes such as the Riverdale Village apartments in Essex and Savoy East in Randallstown.

Ruppersberger did not mention the economy, which has improved greatly since the 1991-1993 recession, producing tens of millions of dollars in additional tax revenues.

Ruppersberger said that if he is re-elected, he plans to continue his emphasis on education, jobs, public safety and rebuilding older neighborhoods.

He said he wants to do more for human services, especially for young children, noting that more day care is needed for preschoolers.

"We have to get more people off welfare and capture very young children," he said.

Pub Date: 6/23/98

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