Baltimore losing political influence to Washington suburbs

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger thought long and hard earlier this year about whether to enter the race for governor in Maryland.

The six-term congressman and former Baltimore County executive said he heard from many supporters who wanted to see him make a run for the statehouse, in part because they were concerned of being forgotten in Annapolis.

A major reason for this on the Democratic side is that none of the major candidates for governor are from the Baltimore area.

“There was a concern that as population in the state continues to shift toward the Washington suburbs that the needs of those in Baltimore will be forgotten,” Ruppersberger said. “Before I would endorse any candidate, I wanted to ensure that would not be the case.”

Ruppersberger ultimately decided to seek reelection to Congress and backed Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who lives in Prince George’s County, for governor. The other key Democratic candidates – Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur are from Montgomery County.

Gansler took a calculated risk of Baltimore’s apparent loss of political stroke in Maryland when he selected Prince George’s County Del. Jolene Ivey as his running mate. Brown took a more balanced geographic approach by tabbing Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his running mate; although some would argue his jurisdiction is more Washington than Baltimore.

The Republican race has no Baltimore or Baltimore County candidates, but does include businessman Larry Hogan, Harford County Executive David Craig and Anne Arundel County Del. Ron George .

“I have concern about the Baltimore region getting lost in the political shuffle,” Ruppersberger said. “I wanted to make sure that whoever gets elected takes a statewide perspective toward being governor and not concentrate on one region.”

The political shift from the Baltimore to Washington suburbs has taken place gradually over the past 20 years as the city’s population and legislative representation declines while the opposite is taking place in Montgomery and Prince George’s County

Del. Jon Cardin is also concerned about Baltimore declining influence. That concern played a factor in the Baltimore County Democrat’s decision to run for attorney general, where he is in a tight primary race against Montgomery County state Sen. Brian Frosh. Cardin is the only Baltimore-area Democrat seeking statewide office.

“There could soon be a vacuum of power in Annapolis when it comes to Baltimore,” Cardin said. “Baltimore residents should be concerned that their voices will no longer be heard. There needs to be geographic diversity among the state’s leaders.”

Frosh said geographic diversity isn’t as big an issue as some critics would contend. He points out that both of Maryland’s U.S. senators – Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin – are from Baltimore, as are a majority of the state’s congressional delegation. In addition, there are many residents who work in the Washington area but live in Baltimore and visa versa and are concerned about both regions equally.

“Yes, there has been a population shift, but I think it is more coincidence than anything else that most of the candidates came from the Washington region,” Frosh said. “Voters today are more concerned about the credentials a candidate has and not where they are from. I believe I am as in tuned to issues important to Baltimore as those in the Washington region.”

McDaniel College political science professor Herb Smith the political pendulum in the state has definitely shifted away from Baltimore and this election is proof of that.

“We are likely in unprecedented territory when it comes to Baltimore’s influence in Annapolis,” Smith said. “Candidates understand that to win a statewide election all they really have to do is carry Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in addition to Baltimore City.”