A convicted felon trying to unseat a nine-term Democratic congressman from Baltimore.
A congressional candidate who’s run for office five times before, including a bid for president.
A teacher running for governor who says he’s not a politician; rather, he’s leading a movement toward better ethics in government and politics.
They don’t have the name recognition the incumbents do. They don’t have the support of their respective parties. Often, they’re spending very little because they’re paying for their campaigns themselves.
The political odds don’t seem to be in their favor, but that doesn’t stop many perennial candidates. With weeks to go before the June 24 primary, the ballot is full of candidates who have run before – some of them, many times.
“I’d rather be involved than not, and losing comes with the territory,” said Blaine Taylor, a Democrat running for U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger’s seat in Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District.
Ralph Jaffe, a Democrat who ran for governor in 2010 and U.S. Senate in 2012, said he doesn’t consider himself a perennial candidate at all.
“I’m a perennial teacher,” Jaffe said.
If he’s elected, he says he’ll only serve one term, and he refuses all campaign donations, calling them bribes. Jaffe, whose website is fedupwithcrookedpolitics.com , said his motivation dates back to the early 1980s, when he worked to fix a traffic problem in the Park Heights area.
“You have to work with these phony politicians and know how to advocate,” Jaffe said. “I’m already known as the ethical governor of Maryland.”
Taylor, 67, caught the political bug early, saying his earliest TV memory was watching the 1948 Democratic National Convention the year Harry S Truman was nominated for president. He was active in student government at Towson University and later worked as a press secretary for politicians, helping several get elected.
He first ran for a seat in the House of Delegates in 1998. Taylor later ran for U.S. Senate in 2006, president in 2008, and U.S. Senate again in 2010 and 2012. This year, he’s running as a Democrat for Ruppersberger’s spot, facing off against six other candidates in a crowded primary.
“I have a chance every year, or else I wouldn’t try,” Taylor said. “Whether or not I win or lose is up to the voters—and God.”
Richard Vatz, a professor of political persuasion at Towson University, said many candidates are attracted to the excitement of a campaign.
“It’s kind of enjoyable to run for office,” Vatz said. “It gives you significance—you’re a candidate.”
Plus, if you have a business or another organization you’re trying to promote, running for office is a guaranteed way to drum up some publicity, Vatz said.
Repeat candidates say they run for many reasons—to shake up the status quo, to show others they can do it, to give voters a choice.
“I’m the only honest one who will tell you where I stand,” said candidate Ray Bly, a 64-year-old Republican from Howard County.
He is running against U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District.
Bly, who admits he is a convicted felon, ran for Ruppersberger’s seat in Maryland’s 2nd District in 2008 and 2010. He also launched a write-in campaign for that seat in 2012, garnering 22 votes of nearly 296,000 cast.
“I was calling for a revolution,” Bly said. “I’m still calling for a revolution.”
Are voters going to listen?
“I cannot think of one time someone has come back and won,” Vatz said of perennial office-seekers.
Plans to keep running
Arvin Vohra, Libertarian candidate for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, said he’ll keep running until he wins or until he sees significant cuts to several government agencies—whichever comes first.
Vohra, of Montgomery County, tried to unseat minority whip Steny Hoyer, D-St. Mary’s, in Maryland’s 5th Congressional District in 2012. He ran for a seat in the House of Delegates two years before that.
The owner of Arvin Vohra Education, Vohra supports dismantling the U.S. Department of Education, using the military only for defense, ending the war on drugs and releasing all non-violent drug offenders immediately and ending foreign subsidies.
“Neither of the two parties are serious about cutting anything in government,” Vohra said. “Before, I just focused on my ideas in general—I’ve learned it’s really important to be very clear and very specific about what I want to cut.”
That seems to resonate more with voters, he said.
John Moran IV of Brooklyn Park, police lieutenant and support service bureau commander at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, ran for Anne Arundel County sheriff for the first time in 1990.
He lost that election, but he wasn’t deterred.
Since then, Moran, also a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves at Fort George G. Meade, ran for sheriff three more times, for Anne Arundel County Council twice and now for a seat in the House of Delegates, representing District 31A.
He points out he usually earns above 45 percent of voters’ support— just
a few percentage points shy of winning.
“It’s been the same thing in my military career and my police career. I put in for sergeant, put in for lieutenant, and didn’t get it the first time,” Moran said. “If I had given up, I would still be a patrolman.”
Robert Haynes of Glen Burnie and Ned Carey of Brooklyn Park, a former Anne Arundel County Board of Education member, are also running in the Democratic primary for District 31A delegate.
Moran acknowledged that Carey, the most well-known of the bunch, has an advantage in terms of name recognition and money.
Carey’s campaign has more than $20,000 on hand, according to the most recent round of campaign finance reports filed this week. The Friends to Elect John Moran has $2,194.26 in its bank account.
“I have an uphill battle,” Moran said. “But I want to show my friends and family that you just don’t quit.”
Taylor said he, too, plans to keep on running until he wins, dies, or both.
“I already feel very sorry for the first person whom someday I’ll beat,” he said.
Jaffe maintains he’s already won.
“I’ve got my maker, I’ve got my students and I’ve got my principals,” Jaffe said. “I’d much rather get three votes and do it right.”