Ruppersberger beats Bentley; Morella falls
            to Van Hollen
                   Incumbents easily win re-election to Maryland's other 6 seats in the

                         By Jeff Barker and Andrew A. Green
                         Sun Staff
                         Originally published November 6, 2002

                    Democrats claimed victories last night in two hotly contested races for
                    Maryland congressional seats that have long been in Republican hands.

                    C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County and Christopher Van
                    Hollen Jr. of Montgomery County won in contests that attracted the
                    attention of both national parties.

                    Incumbents easily won re-election to the state's six other seats in the
                    House of Representatives.

                    In the 2nd District, Ruppersberger, 56, the Baltimore County
                    executive, defeated former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, 78, reversing
                    two decades of Republican victories in the mostly Democratic district
                    centered on the county's east side.

                    Ruppersberger waded through a throng of supporters last night in a
                    confetti-filled ballroom at the Towson Sheraton while the theme from
                    Rocky played in the background.

                    "Helen was a great, great public servant," Ruppersberger said. "She
                    was tenacious, and I think it's important that we acknowledge that she
                    ran a great race. But we won the race."

                    Bentley, jabbing at Democrats to the last, conceded defeat about 11
                    p.m., saying that even in a losing effort, her campaign may have
                    provided a boost to Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. - who gave up
                    the congressional seat to run for governor.

                    "It appears our efforts in Parris Glendening's new 2nd District have
                    fallen short," she said to a cheering crowd at the American Legion post
                    in Towson. "But we have provided a solid backbone for Ehrlich's

                    In suburban Washington's 8th District, Van Hollen, 43, a state senator,
                    defeated Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella, 71, a popular
                    eight-term incumbent.

                    "I am just so very fortunate," said Morella in conceding. "I've had the
                    opportunity to move the issues that affect all of us. For all of this, I
                    thank all of you. I will always remember all of you in my heart."

                    Van Hollen waited for Morella's concession, then entered the ballroom
                    at a Silver Spring country club with his wife and two young children as
                    a band played James Brown's "I Feel Good."

                    "This is not a vote against Connie Morella," he said. "It's a vote for
                    change in the district and change in leadership."

                    President Bush was among those who called to offer regrets to
                    Morella, the only condolence call he made in the election, the White
                    House said.

                    The two Maryland districts were viewed by both national parties as
                    swing seats in the battle for control of the House, where Republicans
                    began the evening with a 223-208 advantage. The parties sent in
                    money and political stars, including Bush and his wife, Laura, and New
                    York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady.

                    The results allowed Maryland Democrats to break the 4-4 tie between
                    the parties in the state's congressional delegation. The split is now 6-2.

                    The Democrats used redistricting, the remapping of congressional
                    districts that follows every census, to improve the party's prospects in
                    both districts by adding precincts with heavy concentrations of
                    Democratic voters.

                    Ruppersberger is only the second Baltimore County executive to be
                    elected to higher office; Spiro T. Agnew, who became governor and
                    vice president, was the first.

                    When his plans for a gubernatorial bid faded last fall, Ruppersberger
                    let it be known that he would be interested in running for Congress,
                    provided that Governor Glendening could draw him a sufficiently
                    Democratic district.

                    In the campaign, Bentley, who had held the seat for 10 years until
                    giving it up to run for governor in 1994, emphasized her advocacy for
                    the Port of Baltimore and her record of constituent service. She also
                    stressed the Republican leadership's promise that her seniority and seat
                    on the powerful House Appropriations Committee would be restored
                    if she were elected.

                    But demographics of the district made the race difficult for Bentley; the
                    new 2nd District is 68 percent Democratic.

                    In the 8th District, based largely in Montgomery County with a sliver
                    of Prince George's, Morella was trying to duplicate a proven formula:
                    Win the votes of a huge majority of Republicans, a smaller majority of
                    independents and at least a quarter of the district's Democrats.
                    Democrats enjoy a voter registration advantage in the district of nearly

                    But this year, there was a difference in Morella's style. For the first
                    time in her congressional career, she attacked her opponent by name
                    in television ads. Among other accusations, she said that Van Hollen
                    backed legislation to cut income taxes for Maryland's wealthiest
                    citizens. She also alleged that he had distorted the record of Del. Mark
                    Shriver, Van Hollen's opponent in the primary.

                    Van Hollen accused Morella of trying to smear his record in the state
                    Senate. But he focused less on Morella than on urging the district's
                    Democrats to do their part to help the party regain control of the

                    The 8th District hasn't been in Democratic hands since former Rep.
                    Michael Barnes stepped down to run for the Senate in 1986.

                    Polling places were themselves a story. Montgomery County, which
                    bogged down in posting returns during the primary as it adjusted to
                    new touch-screen machines, was faster last night but suffered a few

                    In the 19th District, the word "Democratic" appeared mistakenly in
                    screen instructions. Election workers scrambled to print a notice that
                    the word should not have been there.

                    In other races, 6th District GOP Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett won his sixth
                    term by defeating congressional staff member Donald DeArmon for
                    the second election in a row, and 1st District GOP Rep. Wayne T.
                    Gilchrest gained a seventh term with an easy victory over activist Ann
                    D. Tamlyn.

                    Democratic incumbents re-elected were 5th District Rep. Steny H.
                    Hoyer, senior member of the delegation with 21 years' service, who
                    beat business consultant Joseph T. Crawford; 7th District Rep. Elijah
                    E. Cummings, who beat computer scientist Joseph E. Ward, a former
                    Democrat; 3rd District Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who defeated lawyer
                    Scott Conwell; and 4th District Rep. Albert R. Wynn, who beat
                    behavioral researcher John B. Kimble. They will be in their fourth,
                    ninth and fifth terms, respectively.

                    Sun staff writer David L. Greene and correspondents Liz Babiarz,
                    Dave Pittman, Raymund Flandez and Hattie Brown contributed to this

                    Copyright © 2002, The Baltimore Sun