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Maryland’s 2nd District: State Sen. Johnny Salling challenges incumbent Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger for seat in Congress

Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, (left) has represented the Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 18 years since he was first elected in 2002. Running against this year is state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, (right) a lifelong Baltimore County resident and Republican official who won local office in 2014 and reelection in 2018.
Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, (left) has represented the Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 18 years since he was first elected in 2002. Running against this year is state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, (right) a lifelong Baltimore County resident and Republican official who won local office in 2014 and reelection in 2018. (Courtesy Photos)

Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger has represented the 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 18 years.

Running against him this fall is state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, a Republican who has represented his Baltimore County district in Annapolis since 2014.

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Ruppersberger’s political career began on Baltimore County Council in 1985 and 1989. He served as Baltimore County Executive from 1994 to 2002 before elected to Congress in 2002. Ruppersberger won reelection handily in 2018, collecting 167,200 votes and a 35-point lead.

If re-elected again, Ruppersberger, 74, said he would continue helping his constituents with economic hardships and a fraught unemployment insurance system brought by the pandemic, along with advocating on their behalf from his seat on the House Appropriations Committee. He previously was the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.

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“I’ll put my record on the line. My ability to get money (through appropriations), my ability for constituent service — that’s extremely important to help people. I’m bipartisan; I work both sides of the aisle to get things done for my constituents, and for my country and my district,” Ruppersberger said. “Let the record speak for itself.”

Salling, 58, represents Dundalk and the neighboring towns that makeup District 6 in the Maryland General Assembly. He serves on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and previously sat on the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, two posts Salling says will guide his policy decisions in Congress.

He said his priorities center on the needs of constituents over party politics. If re-elected, he hopes to bring infrastructure jobs to the 2nd District and bolster students' opportunities to attend trade schools.

Salling served in the Army as a combat engineer for three years after high school. He then worked at Bethlehem Steel Mill for more than 30 years, gaining experience as a union representative for United Steelworkers of American Union.

Salling ran for state Senate in 2014 and won by 850 votes or 2.8 points. He was reelected in 2018, winning by more than 5,000 votes or 15 points.

“I want people to know in my area, the 6th Legislative District, it’s a 3-to-2 ratio Democrat/Republican, and they voted me in twice because they didn’t see a party, they saw a person. They see the people that work for them," Salling said. “When the time comes on Election Day, and they vote me in, they’ll see that.”

Maryland’s 2nd District spans several counties, including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Baltimore City. In Ann Arundel, the district includes communities such as Brooklyn Park, Linthicum, Hanover and Jessup. It also includes two Army bases: Fort George G. Meade in Anne Arundel and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.

Around 750,700 residents live in the district, according to census data. Maryland State Board of Elections data shows more than 472,400 residents were registered to vote as of 2018.

Voter registration data in the district shows about 58% of residents are registered Democrats, and about 22% are registered Republicans as of 2018. About 84,000 voters identified as unaffiliated, and roughly 7,000 identified as Green Party, Libertarian or other.

The Capital spoke with the candidates about some of their congressional priorities and goals for the office.

COVID-19 Response

Among his priorities, Ruppersberger is focused on resolving constituents' unemployment insurance woes during the coronavirus pandemic. His office received 1,124 constituents calls for help navigating the state-run unemployment benefits portal. Ruppersberger is looking for sponsors on a bill to fund hazard pay for frontline medical workers named after Dr. Joseph J. Costa, a physician. Costa worked with COVID-19 patients at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center and later died of COVID-19.

Ruppersberger is critical of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He joins Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and other state representatives in a bill giving John Hopkins $8.3 million to research racial and ethnic disparities and COVID-19.

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Salling is supportive of Trump’s measures to limit travel to China and virus hot spots. The Republican said the president took smart actions to defeat the virus and secure personal protective equipment for states.

“He’s been responsible to do everything necessary for his people because I know he cares,” Salling said.

Jobs and the economy

Attracting manufacturing companies that create jobs in the district is Salling’s main priority. He pledges to continue working with distribution hub Tradepoint Atlantic that’s created 8,000 jobs to meet its warehousing and industrial needs in Baltimore County.

Through his seat on the Appropriations Committee, Ruppersberger delegated $230 million for Maryland’s military economy as part of the House defense funding bill. He advocates for a strong infrastructure program to create jobs lost during the pandemic.

“I think that would really help bring our country together,” Ruppersberger said.

Police reform

Salling and Ruppersberger both support additional funding and training for police departments and disagree with calls to defund police departments and reinvest state and federal dollars in community social services.

Absentee voting has begun in Maryland, and early voting at polling places will start Oct. 26. Election day is Nov. 3.

Residents can text “VOTE” or “VOTA” to 77788 to be sent a link to register to vote online. The deadline to register to vote in Maryland was Tuesday, but there are options for same-day registration at the polls during early voting and Election Day with the correct identification and materials.

Residents who are already registered to vote and would like to request an absentee ballot can text “VBM” or “VPC” to be sent a link to the online request form. The deadline to request an absentee or mail-in ballot is Oct. 20.

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