Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat who briefly considered running for Maryland's open Senate seat, endorsed Rep. Chris Van Hollen for the job on Monday -- becoming the first member of the state's congressional delegation to choose a candidate in the contest.
The endorsement came nearly a week before the state's April 26 primary, and it bucked a conventional wisdom that Maryland's federal lawmakers would be better off sitting on the sidelines until a nominee emerged from the competitive race between Van Hollen and Rep. Donna F. Edwards for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's seat.
Ruppersberger, a former Baltimore County executive, signaled last week that he was frustrated with the tone of the race, which erupted over a series of attack ads about gun control. A super PAC supporting Edwards began running an ad that criticized Van Hollen for his role in a 2010 campaign finance bill that exempted the National Rifle Association and other groups from its requirements.
Ruppersberger joined House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the White House last week in decrying the ad.
"Part of the problem with Washington today is there are too many ideologues," Ruppersberger was set to say at an event in Baltimore, according to prepared remarks. "It's great to be passionate, whatever your political philosophy may be. But it doesn't mean a thing if your ideas don't translate to solutions for your constituents."
Ruppersberger's nod is also important because the Baltimore region has emerged as a leading battleground in the contest. The congressman's 2nd Congressional District includes portions of Harford, Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties, as well as portions of Northeast and South Baltimore City.
That message is consistent with one the Van Hollen camp has been pressing for the better part of a year: That the Montgomery County lawmaker is a progressive but also a pragmatist who can work with people of opposite mind in order to advance an agenda.
The Ruppersberger endorsement came on the same day that Edwards announced several new endorsements of her own, including Del. Alonzo T. Washington of Prince George's County, Del. Jay Jalisi of Baltimore County and Charles County Commissioner Amanda M. Stewart.
"As a neighbor to her home district of Prince George's County, we often worked on issues to make everyday life better for women, veterans, working families, and all citizens," Stewart said in a statement. "Leadership and service are the true markers of an effective elected official."