J.D. Urbach says if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
The 31-year-old Essex resident believes that with the Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, Maryland residents in the 2nd Congressional District are being left out when it comes to federal dollars because their two-term representative, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, is a Democrat.
"Sending Democrats to Washington takes money out of our pockets," Urbach said.
Four challengers jumped into the race on the final filing day to ensure that Ruppersberger's bid for a third term has opposition. Democrat Christopher Boardman will face the former Baltimore County executive in the primary Tuesday, while Urbach, James Dunn Mathis and Dee Hodges will compete for the Republican nomination.
Ruppersberger thumped his Republican challenger in 2004. His district, which covers southern swaths of Harford and Baltimore counties, creeps into Baltimore and spills into Anne Arundel County, is also heavily skewed toward Democrats, with a 3-to-1 voter registration advantage.
After briefly considering a run for the seat of retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Ruppersberger, 60, decided in April to seek re-election to the House of Representatives, where he sits on the Intelligence Committee. He has visited Iraq four times since the start of the war, and is pushing for a change in strategy.
His "perimeter plan," which he has presented to President Bush, would pull most troops out of urban cores and turn those duties over to Iraqi forces. American troops would remain on the fringes, available to provide backup, but would concentrate on other needs such as infrastructure.
"That says, 'This is your government and your military providing security,'" Ruppersberger said. "I think that will help calm down all the problems we're having with insurgency."
Boardman, a registered nurse who has previously run for Harford County Council, beat the filing deadline with 10 minutes to spare, arriving at state elections headquarters in hospital scrubs to fill out paperwork. He said the genesis of his campaign was frustration over the Iraq war and Ruppersberger's response.
"I had been writing him letters about my distress over the Iraq war, ... and I've just been terribly disappointed with his response to the concerns we had," said Boardman, 59, of Joppa. "This war has gone on for too long, and it's time to shut it down."
As the former president of the Maryland Taxpayers Association, Hodges, 63, might have the most experience among the Republican challengers. The nonpartisan group provides testimony to the General Assembly and tracks tax and regulatory policies. Hodges, a banker from Parkville, also advised Ellen R. Sauerbrey during her 1994 gubernatorial campaign.
Hodges also joined the race because of her feelings on Iraq. But rather than have the U.S. pull out its troops, Hodges believes the military should become more aggressive.
"We're in a holding action - rather than stay the course, we need to press on," she said. "The enemy is not going to let us opt out of this war. We have to commit ourselves as Americans to doing that."
Mathis, 28, a videographer from Cockeysville, launched his campaign at Essex's Sky Park, where he began a solo flight across the country at the age of 16. He said his top issue - Social Security - has been pushed aside because it is too controversial. But it must be addressed, he said.
"Social Security will go bankrupt in 10 years," Mathis said. "Now, more than ever, with prices of everything from housing to fuel to education, it's more important to get a guaranteed nest egg."
Urbach breaks with the other two Republican candidates on the Iraq war, saying troops should be brought home as soon as possible. Mathis says the United States is making progress and that now is not the time to cut and run.
Sun reporter Josh Mitchell contributed to this article.