CLEVELAND - Maryland Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore County) followed his state’s GOP delegation to the Republican National Convention this week in search of donors for his congressional campaign, insisting that this year’s stranger-than-fiction political climate could help him produce one of the biggest election shockers of 2016.
McDonough made his pitch to Maryland’s convention delegates and guests at a hotel about 20 miles outside of Cleveland on Monday, saying a combination of anti-establishment sentiment and strong support among Republicans in his district for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump could be enough for him to unseat seven-term incumbent C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.).
The former conservative radio talk show host has hired the same consulting team that two years ago helped businessman Larry Hogan become only the second Republican to win Maryland’s governorship in nearly half a century.
He said he is about halfway to his goal of raising $500,000 for his campaign for Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District, having picked up checks for $100, $300 and $500 Monday morning alone.
Never mind that Ruppersberger, who beat his Republican opponent two years ago by a 25-point margin, had about $1.1 million in cash on hand as of April.
“Dutch has never faced a challenge like this before,” said McDonough, who was thrilled when the Baltimore Sun dubbed him the Trump of Baltimore County. “This is a Trump district. These are working people, working families, and they’re pissed off like Trump people are pissed off. They want change. They’re against the establishment. My reputation is I’m a rebel — I’m a maverick in the legislature and on the radio.”
Many political analysts were highly skeptical.
“It’s not going to happen,” said Todd Eberly, associate professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “McDonough is not Larry Hogan. He’s too conservative and has a history of controversial statements, and he goes after the social issues happily.”
The Cook Political Report has listed the 2nd District seat as solidly Democratic and predicts Rupperburger, a centrist, will win in November by at least 10 points.
“It’s hard for me to think Ruppersberger would lose,” said Donald Norris, director of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. “But with that being said, this is the strangest political year I have ever seen.”
Ruppersberger won 89,820 votes in an uncontested Democratic primary this year, compared with 28,397 GOP primary votes for McDonough (the delegate won 71 percent of the vote in a five-candidate Republican field).
In the same district, which includes parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won 63,200 votes in her party’s primary, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont capturing another 39,300. Trump won 27,844 in the Republican contest — 60 percent of the GOP primary field, but less than a third of the votes garnered by the two major Democrats.
McDonough likes to note that much of his opponent’s war chest comes from a handful of wealthy donors within the defense and aerospace fields, which have a heavy presence in Maryland. Ruppersberger, the state lawmaker said, is “a poster boy for special interests.”
Ruppersberger campaign spokeswoman Jaime Lennon said the congressman “is proud to have the support of major employers in his district” and “humbled to have the support of the 2nd District for seven terms now.”
“He’s confident in his record,” Lennon said, “and thinks it speaks for itself.”