Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R) Explores Congress Run Against Dutch Ruppersberger (D); Uphill Fight but She Has a Unique 2012 Shot

December 5, 2011

State Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil/Harford) said Monday she has formed an “exploratory committee” to consider a run for Congress and the 2nd District seat now held by Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger. If she does run, it would be a very tough uphill fight but the state and national political dynamics of 2012 suggest it would not be an impossible task.

With a little more than a month before the state’s candidate filing deadline, she will have to evaluate her chances quickly and decide once and for all if she will run. And as soon as she starts to rake in all but minimal financial support, she will have to fish or cut bait.

Under Federal Election Commission rules, an exploratory committee can raise and spend money for “testing the waters” activities such as polling but once $5,000 is raised and spent for “campaign” activities, the potential candidate is considered an actual candidate and must file an official statement of candidacy with the FEC.

On her Facebook wall, Jacobs announced her move and commented, “I’m tired of the excuses coming from Washington and believe it’s time to challenge the Beltway status quo. Congress exists to serve the people and they are failing miserably. It’s time to shake things up in D.C.” In response, Jacobs drew positive comments from supporters and repeated messages urging her to “run, Nancy, run.”

She has created a separate website for her exploratory committee,

In formally announcing her move, Jacobs cited her work in the state Senate to pass “key laws to crack down on gang violence and protect our children from sexual predators with legislation such as Jessica’s Law.” She also cited her work on behalf of small business and said her ties to the local business community highlighted her commitment to “work to improve the lives of people in our community with more job opportunities, a stronger economy and a brighter future for our families.”

In late October, Jacobs announced she would give up her Minority Leader post in the state Senate to mull other political opportunities, including possible runs for Congress in 2012 or Maryland Governor or Harford County executive in 2014. [See previous Cecil Times report here:

But the goodwill she enjoys from her longtime supporters is but little comfort against the harsh political realities of taking on the popular “Dutch,” who has a formidable resume on national issues with some down-home constituencies. Jacobs has negligible experience on national issues that are at the forefront of many 2nd District voters’ concerns in 2012 and she is a political unknown in much of the district, which includes Ruppersberger’s Baltimore County homebase as well as part of Harford County.

Jacobs cannot count on her Harford base, since she narrowly lost the Harford portion of her state Senate District in 2010 to Democrat Art Helton and only won re-election due to her overwhelming support in western Cecil County. But Cecil County is not in the 2nd congressional district she would be running in and which is now represented by Rep. Andy Harris (R-1).

Ruppersberger is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which oversees national security and terrorism issues. Under the recently approved redistricting plan, he solidified his district base in a ‘national security’ corridor, including the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County which has been expanded under the BRAC military realignment program. In addition, he represents areas surrounding the Fort Meade military complex also expanded by BRAC and the National Security Agency.

So for “Dutch,” his national security work also translates into a local jobs program that would no doubt be important to longtime workers as well as the many BRAC transplanted workers who have settled in Harford County and near Fort Meade.

In raw political terms, the 2nd District is majority Democratic, and while independent voters are an increasingly important factor in state elections, Jacobs is a hard-core conservative whose appeal to independents is uncertain, especially on “social” issues such as abortion.

But at the same time, Jacobs could benefit from broader political currents in the 2012 election. With President Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket, anti-Obama sentiment in the district could aid any candidate with an “R” (Republican) after their name on the ballot.

And there is a unique Maryland twist stemming from the mounting free-for-all in the western Maryland race for the Congress seat now held by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican, that could trigger an infusion of campaign funds for Jacobs.

Redistricting has turned the Bartlett district into a Democratic majority area with lines re-drawn to include northern Montgomery County. The 85-year-old Bartlett has done minimal fundraising, his top aide resigned recently after seeking support to run for the seat if Bartlett bailed out, and multiple Republicans are gearing up for a primary fight. Multiple Democrats are also lining up for a shot at the seat.

With that state of flux and uncertainty, national GOP-supporting groups and conservative Political Action Committees (PACs) looking to send a message in a “blue” Democratic state like Maryland would find Jacobs an attractive candidate for their financial contributions.

But Ruppersberger already has over $414,000 cash on hand in his federal campaign account. Under federal election rules, Jacobs could not transfer balances from her state campaign account and would have to start from scratch to fundraise in a short period of time before the 2012 general election.

[To see the new map of the 2nd Congressional District, click here:]

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