Progressive Rupli ready to challenge conservative Hough for Frederick Senate Seat

Listen to this article
Photos above: Dan Rupli and Del. Michael Hough

By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf

It was fear of a Tea Party Republican winning the race in District 4 that got Dan Rupli, an old Democratic war-horse, to accept his party’s pleas to get into the race.

Now that Del. Michael Hough has beaten Sen. David Brinkley, the Senate minority leader, in conservative-minded District 4, Rupli and Hough will battle it out in the fall. Rupli, 71, practiced public interest law and formerly served as counsel to then-Gov. Parris Glendening.

With his Republican opponent selected, Rupli said he couldn’t stand idly by and watch a Tea Party Republican — the party faction Hough has been tied to — overtake the district.

Rupli said that while Brinkley leaned far right, he was willing to compromise across the aisle, while he called Hough’s stance is more aggressive and non-productive. This is a disadvantage to the constituents of the district, Rupli said, but an advantage to his campaign. Rupli’s liberal policies are polar to Hough’s, while if Rupli had run against Brinkley, there wouldn’t have been as much of a distinction, he said. District 4

A finger in the eye is not the way to go

“I don’t think going to Annapolis and sticking the finger in the eye of the governor is the way to go,” Rupli said of Hough’s tactics. “Telling people you voted against everything that O’Malley put out is fine, but what does that bring back to the district?”

Hough refuted Rupli’s claims that he can’t work well with others, which were echoed by Brinkley during the primary campaign. Hough said on election night, he even found a few text messages on his phone from House Democrats — whom he would not name — congratulating him.

Rupli touts his first job enforcing the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a lawyer with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department as one of the most important endeavors he’s ever undertaken. He marched with, and was inspired by, Martin Luther King Jr., he said.

But other than two unsuccessful congressional runs in the late ‘70s, Rupli has never been close to holding public office before. Until now, saying he feels he can win District 4, comprising Frederick County and a slice of Carroll County.

Conservative voters dominate

Rupli acknowledges his disadvantages: the majority of voters in Frederick and Carroll counties are conservative. In this year’s primary, almost 13,000 Republicans voted — Brinkley collected 4,133 of the votes, and Hough garnered 8,715, while the Democrats who voted for Rupli didn’t even number 5,000.

Hough has raised gobs more money. Hough’s campaign chest contains more than $73,000, according to the most recent filings to the State Board of Elections, while Rupli has a little more than $2,000 on hand.

But Rupli said he’s concrete on the issues he wants to tackle, which stem from his time as an attorney and activist: he’s concerned about some of the “ill-conceived development projects” he’s seen in Frederick County and wants to close the gap in the pay between genders.

He was also enchanted with a proposal in higher education coming out of Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Promise” plan which grants two years of free community college to high school graduates.

“National government is deadlocked and is likely to remain so for the next 10 to 12 years,” Rupli said. “There’s a lot of things the federal government is failing to do that we’ll need to pick up on the state level.”

Hough calls primary ‘a big win’

Hough said that after his spirited primary campaign against Brinkley — during which he portrayed Brinkley as an agent of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s agenda — he’ll be taking a week-long vacation with his family. He said after that, he’ll begin fundraising and intends to assist other Republicans statewide and funnel some funds toward them. He specifically pointed to Del. Mike McDermott, who in the general election will battle incumbent Democratic Sen. Jim Mathais for the District 38 senate seat on the Eastern Shore.

Two of three of Hough’s slate moved forward to the general election, incumbent Del. Kathy Afzali and David Vogt III, along with Brinkley’s slate ally Del. Kelly Schulz. Only one Democratic candidate for delegate is running, Gene Stanton.

“I was glad that I won,” Hough said. “And I was surprised margin we won by was as big as it was … for our team it was a big win.”