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Jeff Barker and Lia Russell

Baltimore Sun

January 26, 2024

U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat who has been in Congress for 21 years and has held public office for nearly 40 years, ended months of speculation by announcing Friday that he won’t seek a twelfth term.

“I have decided to retire to spend more time with my family,” Ruppersberger said in a video message that offered a career retrospective and said he had served with “thoughtfulness, consistency and good old common sense.”

Ruppersberger’s announcement, which came two weeks before the Feb. 9 filing deadline, means Maryland’s eight-member U.S. House delegation will have an unusually high number of open seats — three — heading into the May 14 primary.

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a Democrat, said in October that he would pursue other interests rather than seek a tenth term in the 3rd Congressional District that includes Howard County and parts of Anne Arundel and Carroll counties. There is also a vacancy in the 6th Congressional District of Frederick County and Western Maryland because David Trone, a third-term Democrat, is running for the U.S. Senate.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat, has expressed interest in Ruppersberger’s 2nd Congressional District seat, which includes parts of Baltimore and Carroll counties and a small piece of Baltimore City, but only if Ruppersberger were not running.

“For over 40 years in public service, my friend and mentor Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger has been an unwavering force for good across the Baltimore region, throughout Maryland, and across the country,” Olszewski said in a statement. “While his retirement from public service will mark the end of an era, his legacy as one of greater Baltimore’s best leaders and storytellers will undoubtedly endure for generations to come.”

As of the last election — in 2022 — the district had 264,496 registered Democrats, 150,038 registered Republicans and 101,941 independents, according to state election statistics.

Republicans hold a narrow 219-213 majority in the House with three vacancies, meaning every retirement decision is closely watched by both parties.

Ruppersberger, who turns 78 on Jan. 31, is a Baltimore City College graduate and former Baltimore County executive and council member who has held public office for almost 40 years. The congressman, who describes himself as a moderate, is a member of the influential House Appropriations Committee and previously served — during his first 12 years in Congress — on the Intelligence Committee.

Ruppersberger, then a prosecutor, won election to the county council in 1986, 11 years after a near-fatal car accident left him with dozens of broken bones and head injuries that led to brain swelling. He required 47 pints of blood and spent a month in the hospital.

He said the accident — and particularly the care he received at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center — motivated him to want to give back by pursuing public service.

Ruppersberger had $823,919 in his campaign account as of Sept. 30, enough to mount a reelection campaign, according to his most recent Federal Election Commission report.

Two Democrats, Clint Spellman Jr., and Jessica Sjoberg, both of Baltimore County, have filed with the Maryland Board of Elections to run in the Democratic primary. Dave Wallace of Carroll County has filed as a Republican.

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