Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) appears to have his toughest Democratic primary challenger in recent memory, with Baltimore County progressive activist Brittany Oliver launching a bid to unseat the 10-term congressman.
Oliver, 33, a seasoned community organizer who kicked off her campaign earlier this summer, told Maryland Matters that the state’s 2nd District needs “new ideas, diversity and leadership.” Oliver supports a wide range of progressive reforms, including Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, and hopes her concrete stances on a wide range of issues will appeal to voters.
“We can no longer depend on … career politicians who do the bare minimum,” she said. “Running, for me, is about uplifting underserved, pushed-out communities and combating inequality.”
Oliver is the founder of Not Without Black Women, a grass-roots advocacy organization dedicated to empowering Black women, and hopes to continue that work in Congress. She wants Maryland’s currently all-male congressional delegation to better reflect the state’s racial and gender diversity. Her candidacy was first reported by The Baltimore Sun.
“Congress should reflect what the country looks like, and it doesn’t right now,” Oliver said.
Her lengthy advocacy resume dates back to her time at Patapsco High School Center for the Arts, when she petitioned to incorporate Black history into the school’s curriculum. Oliver has since advocated for a broad range of progressive issues, including pushing for a $15 minimum wage, equal pay, LGBTQ+ rights and other progressive issues. She also served as a campaign associate for Stacey Abrams and Kamala Harris, according to her campaign website.
Oliver plans to use her experience with both community organizing and public policy to appeal to voters on the campaign trail – and to work toward her goals in Congress if she’s elected.
“I know what it’s like to be on both sides of both protesting and policy,” she said. “My background and the work that I have done have met at the intersection of that.”
Ruppersberger, 75, has represented Maryland’s 2nd District since 2003. He has handily won reelection throughout his nearly 20 years in office, including taking 67.7% of the vote in the 2020 election against State Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County). Ruppersberger raised $150,219 in the second quarter of 2021, according to the latest campaign finance reports from the Federal Election Commission, and finished the quarter with $1,258,152 in the bank.
Oliver opened her federal fundraising committee after the most recent FEC deadline and will not report fundraising data until October.
Oliver’s campaign will take her throughout the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which currently snakes through parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard and Harford counties, as well as parts of Baltimore City. The district boundaries are subject to change as the General Assembly gears up to redraw legislative and congressional maps as part of the next round of redistricting.
Oliver said her campaign will be monitoring the process, and that she has a plan for running “regardless of what it will look like.”
Ruppersberger campaign spokeswoman Jaime Lennon said in a statement that the longtime congressman “will run based on his proven record of providing the Second District with outstanding constituent service here at home and responsive, pragmatic representation in Washington.”
“We welcome anyone who enters the race and look forward to debating the issues important to our constituents and the future of our country,” Lennon said.
As to how she’ll surmount Ruppersberger’s fundraising advantage, Oliver said she plans on running a grass-roots campaign and aims to address complex issues like climate change in a way that’s accessible to residents of the district.
“We’re building an unstoppable, people-powered ground game, and it’s going to be something that money cannot buy,” she said.