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C. Fraser Smith: Unifying candidate in Frederick

Democrats are missing an opportunity in apple red Frederick.

A good government opportunity for Maryland.

And even the USA.

There’s an opportunity to stand up for compromise and civilized political conversation. But the party is blowing it. The party is doing next to nothing for its 4th District state Senate candidate, Dan Rupli.

He could win without his party’s support. But how embarrassing it will be for his party if he wins without it.

I know. Democrats have their hands full trying to boost Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown into the governor’s office. All their attention is there. But still.

There are a couple of reasons more should have been done by the party to win this seat.

Democrats all but dragooned a candidate into the race against Sen. David Brinkley. Filing deadline had come and gone, and there was no candidate. But here was one of those moments when party central committees can step in.

Its members persuaded the 70-year-old Rupli to be the party’s guy. He expected Brinkley to win. So did almost everyone else, apparently. Rupli then was little more than a willing standard-bearer.

Then politics intervened. Brinkley lost a low-turnout, bruising primary against Del. Michael Hough.

Some Republicans in the county were appalled. They regarded Hough as a tea party partisan who would have no influence whatever in Annapolis. And they were not happy with the attacks on Brinkley. Some of these Republicans, like Mike Hillman, a nuclear engineer who is also editor of the Emmitsburg News-Journal, are urging other Republicans to consider Rupli. Hillman says the tone of political conversation in the county has gone from bad to worse. Democrats would have their voting privileges lifted, one side says. The other responds by calling Republicans Nazis.

Rupli has been reaching out to everyone, hoping people are ready for a more high-minded kind of political leadership. To that end, he’s been invoking the memory of the late Charles McC. “Mac” Mathias, a congressman and U.S. senator whose political career began in Frederick. Rupli held a “unity” picnic, specifically inviting Republicans. He says a fair number responded, including former congressman Roscoe Bartlett.

Rupli has attempted to recruit Sen. Brinkley as well.

In a letter to the senator, he said: “I don’t believe that those who voted in your primary had a true appreciation of what was at stake in losing the influence and leadership of a distinguished Senate minority leader [a post Brinkley held].”

After Brinkley posted the letter on his Facebook page, “all hell broke loose,” Rupli says. Since then, he says, other Republicans have joined a multi-party advisory committee Rupli formed.

He’s been endorsed by the Frederick County Teachers Association, the Maryland State/DC AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club, among others. He campaigns on his 1985 Suzuki motorcycle when weather permits.

If elected, he says, he would support what he refers to as educational excellence — a fully funded pre-K education program, paying for this with casino and lottery funds.

His job-creation proposal involves a public/private alternative energy center in the old Eastalco side. And Rupli would cut state government costs beginning with a serious independent audit of all state agencies. He would work to stop “badly planned developments that threatened our magnificent lifestyle and agricultural heritage.” Finally, he would work for “paycheck fairness for women.”

“I would hope that trying to unify the people of the 4th District by following the example of Mac Mathias and David Brinkley would put me in the good graces of both independents and thoughtful Republicans as well.”

Maybe that group would include those Democrats who didn’t see Rupli’s potential.

C. Fraser Smith is senior news analyst at WYPR-FM. His column appears Fridays in the Daily Record. His email address is