GOP senator attacks Mikulski's record

Eastern Shore's Pipkin to challenge her in 2004

October 14, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

GRASONVILLE - First-year state Sen. E.J. Pipkin of Queen Anne's County announced yesterday that he will run against U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, saying the three-term Democrat has not done enough to create jobs or improve schools.

"The incumbent has had 27 years to fight for Maryland, and she voted for the status quo time and again," said Pipkin, a Republican, during a morning speech at a waterfront hotel.

Surrounded by his family and many Eastern Shore political activists, Pipkin touched briefly on the issues he said would form the foundation of his campaign: more employment, better schools and a cleaner Chesapeake Bay. He said Mikulski has fallen short in those areas.

He refused to articulate positions on issues that he might have to deal with in Washington, such as abortion or involvement in Iraq.

"It will all come in good time," he said.

Mikulski has not announced her candidacy but is certain to run for a fourth term next year, said Liz Poston, a spokeswoman. The primary election is in March, with the general election in November.

"Marylanders know Barbara Mikulski, and they know she is an effective fighter for jobs and families," Poston said. "They are not looking for a rubber stamp for George Bush's economic policies. That's why Barbara Mikulski is looking forward to renewing her contact with Maryland voters."

Pipkin, 46, is a former Wall Street bond salesman who made his name on the Eastern Shore by fighting a plan to dump dredge material cleared from shipping channels in open water near the Bay Bridge.

Last year, he defeated incumbent state Sen. Walter M. Baker, head of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, during a race in which he lent himself more than a half-million dollars.

State Republicans have been courting Pipkin, a 1974 graduate of Dundalk High School who is the son of an electrician and a cafeteria worker, largely because he could invest his own money in the race. He does not have to resign from his state seat - his term expires in 2006 - to run.

The senator would not say yesterday how much money he would spend. Democrats say a credible race would cost at least $5 million; another potential Republican candidate, Joshua Rales, was talking about spending $10 million.

Pipkin said he wants to be known as much for the energetic style that marked his state race - knocking on doors, waving signs, greeting voters - as for his money. "Hopefully, we will again hear, `Man, that guy is everywhere,' " he said. He followed his Grasonville announcement with a bus tour that stopped in Dundalk and Montgomery and Frederick counties.

Mikulski remains a heavy favorite, but the campaign should receive much attention as the state GOP looks for gains in the aftermath of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s win for governor last year. Neither Ehrlich nor Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele attended Pipkin's announcements.

"I think it's definitely going to be a real race, and Senator Mikulski needs to gear up greatly," said Marirose Capozzi, chairwoman of Queen Anne's Republican State Central Committee.

Joseph M. Getty, a former delegate who was a political adviser to Ehrlich and now works as the governor's policy adviser, said Pipkin has a chance, and must rely on "the theme of change, and a well-executed campaign."

"He has to make it click," Getty said. "There's certainly no room for error."

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