GOP challenger to Mikulski an experienced campaigner Senate candidate Pierpont aims high in campaigns

September 18, 1998|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Maryland's Republicans decided this year not to send a political novice to face Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the widely popular Democrat expected to glide to a third term.

No, in Tuesday's primaries, the state's GOP voters chose someone with years of experience in losing big at the polls: Ross Z. Pierpont, 81, a retired surgeon who has been on the ballot more than a dozen times since 1966, with each campaign ending in defeat.

His losses have never dampened his ambitions. Pierpont always aims high, seeking the most prestigious offices in the state: mayor of Baltimore, congressman, governor and senator. For his platforms, he has championed deep property tax cuts, tougher punishments for drug dealers and a German-style national health care system.

In this year's race, Pierpont tweaked Mikulski a bit about "the mess in Washington," lending his campaign $51,000 of his own money to help pay for some direct mailing and radio ads.

He wasn't very visible for the much of primary campaign, but emerged from a field of 10 Republican candidates even less well-known than he to win with about 18 percent of the GOP vote.

Pierpont is an unusual politician, known before his retirement as a man who would rouse Republican voters with late-night or early-morning phone calls asking for support. In a few past races -- against former Sen. J. Glenn Beall, a moderate Republican, and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Baltimore-area Democrat -- Pierpont declared his foes to be quaking at the prospect of facing him.

Republican officials are putting the best face on the prospects of their candidate, who has previously sued both The Sun and The Washington Post, blaming electoral losses on their scant coverage of his activities. "Certainly, he would be a better replacement than what's in office," said James F. Burton, the state GOP party's executive director. "Ross will lead an energetic campaign for the U.S. Senate."

Mikulski's campaign manager, Michael Morrill, said his boss welcomed Pierpont to the trail leading up to the November general election. "We look forward to campaigning against Dr. Pierpont," said Morrill.

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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