- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
If fundraising totals are any indication of a political campaign’s viability, then Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D) is sitting pretty in the four-way Democratic primary race for District 4 commissioner.
Ahead of the June 24 election, Rucci reported last month having raised $25,710 between Jan. 9 and May 20. Meanwhile, local pharmacist Vincent “Vinny” Ippolito reported raising $1,000 that he donated to his own campaign, and Waldorf residents Richard Allen Aldridge and Emmanuel Ogungbesan each filed affidavits stating they intended to neither raise nor spend $1,000 as part of their respective campaigns.
Rucci also reported having spent nearly $17,600, mostly on campaign signs and fundraisers, but the commissioner isn’t banking on financing his way back into office.
“It helps to have more signs, but I don’t think that makes the final decision,” Rucci said. “I just think it’s the person running. It’s up to the individual. It helps with signs and stuff, but I think the people vote on the integrity of the person running and, myself, what I’ve done the last four years.”
Rucci said his campaign strategy has centered on “working hard, being the same person I’ve been since I started, and working for the citizens of Charles County.”
“I’ve been moving around, visiting people, going to functions, doing the best I can do,” he added.
Rucci said the issues he has heard about most often from voters are traffic congestion, his recent initiative to crack down on heroin and prescription drug abuse, the county’s commercial tax base and taxes.
“I’m not raising taxes,” he said.
Of the $1,000 he donated to his campaign, Ippolito reported spending only $28.71, on bank checks. Still, he doesn’t believe Rucci’s fundraising advantage will translate to the polls.
“Yes, he has a lot of money to spend, but if you look at where his money is coming from, it’s coming from big business, it’s coming from special interests,” Ippolito said. “I don’t see the strong support among the citizens. So yes, money is nice, but money does not buy votes, or at least it shouldn’t.”
Larger contributions to Rucci’s campaign include a total of $4,000 from the Maryland Association of Realtors, $2,500 from Waldorf Ford and $2,500 from Kody Holdings, a Waldorf-based automotive retailer.
Ippolito, who ran for District 4 commissioner in the 2010 election, said he has focused more on getting out to community meetings and forums than he did four years ago.
“I’ve taken every opportunity I can to get out and speak, let people get to know me,” he said. “Many people seem very supportive of me, more so than four years ago, so I take that as a positive. I also take as a positive this time around that my signs are disappearing faster than I can believe. They must be taking them as collectors items.”
Ippolito said school redistricting and overcrowding and high taxes are the issues he’s heard about most from voters.
Like Ippolito, Ogungbesan said he isn’t worried about Rucci’s campaign war chest, either. Rather than raising money to spend on signs and advertising, Ogungbesan said he has focused his campaign on “personal, one-on-one contact with voters.”
“I don’t have Rucci’s money, but I have my work ethic,” he said. “I wake up at 5 [a.m.], and by 5:30 I’m out there talking to voters. I’m putting in the work.
“Signs don’t win elections; personal contact does. If you make contact with somebody one on one, they are more likely to connect with your campaign than if they just see your sign on the street and they don’t know who the heck you are.”
Ogungbesan said he has formed his campaign around the issues he hears about most often — taxes, traffic and school overcrowding. He also has campaigned on eliminating “personal gain lobbying” from county politics.
A Nigerian immigrant, Ogungbesan said he’s found amusing suggestions that those, like himself, who are against sprawl development, are just trying to keep minorities from moving into the county.
“I just want our population growth to be proportionate to our infrastructural capacity,” he said.
The county’s retired chief information officer, Aldridge said he has focused his campaign on attending candidate forums and “telling the story that I am the best-qualified and most experienced candidate.”
Aldridge said his qualifications stem from his tenure with the county, which ended in 2011 with him being recognized by Govertnment Technology magazine as one of the nation’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers. The magazine has named Charles County a winner of its Digital Counties Survey for 11 straight years, the first eight under Aldridge’s leadership.
If elected, Aldridge said he would work to bring compromise to a board that has struggled with the concept.
“Not one commissioner can do anything. It takes three or more. My thing is to come in and provide leadership and collaborate with the other commissioners to solve the issues,” he said. “This is one of the reasons the current civility of the current board is idiotic, because they think they all have personal agendas, and you can’t solve anything like that.”
As for his lack of campaign funds, Aldridge said an empty campaign account would allow him to enter office with a clean slate.
“I have no personal agenda. I served the people for 11 and a half years, and I wanted to give back to the community. I didn’t want to buy a position,” he said. “I’m going in open-minded. I’m going in with integrity. I don’t think anyone who’s running today and getting lots of money from developers can say they’re running with integrity because they’re going to have to pay the piper.”
Pomfret resident John Young is also running for District 4 commissioner as a Republican. He has no primary opponent.