Campaign aims to make Pipkin household name

The Political Game

Ads: Radio spots are the first step in a little-known GOP contender's push to be recognized in his run for U.S. Senate.

January 13, 2004|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

HOPING TO to build his minuscule name recognition as he runs for U.S. Senate, Republican state Sen. E.J. Pipkin has launched a statewide media campaign starting with a radio commercial that introduces him to Maryland voters.

The biographical spot, which began airing last week and is titled "Hard Work," briefly describes Pipkin's successful fight against the dumping of dredging spoils near his Queen Anne's County home, as well as his previous jobs selling weekly newspapers door-to-door, flipping burgers at McDonald's and working with a construction crew.

"During my fight for the Chesapeake Bay, I watched politicians treat insiders like kings, while voters and taxpayers were treated like second-class citizens," Pipkin says in the 30-second spot.

But the commercial doesn't mention two of the more salient features of Pipkin's background: his career as a Wall Street bond trader that reportedly earned him millions and the fact that he is now a state senator - and thus is no longer the true political outsider as he apparently would like to portray himself.

"This is just one small part of a larger laid-out plan," said Steven Crim, Pipkin's spokesman, explaining why those facts were omitted. "It's like telling a story. You don't want to hit everybody with an entire message right at the beginning."

Crim said the spot is running on about two dozen radio stations throughout Maryland. While some Democrats said they heard Pipkin is spending $40,000, Crim said the figure was higher, but would not disclose the amount.

"It's tough to do a statewide buy with $40,000," Crim said.

The radio ads also do not mention Pipkin's opponent. He hopes to emerge from a Republican primary to take on incumbent Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who is seeking a fourth term.

A poll for The Sun shows that Pipkin has plenty of ground to cover. Eighty percent of respondents said they did not recognize his name, the highest for any political figure with statewide aspirations surveyed (the others were Montgomery County State's Attorney Doug Gansler, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley).

Mikulski had a 72 percent to 19 percent favorable/unfavorable rating, compared with 7 percent to 3 percent for Pipkin. In a match-up, likely voters backed Mikulski 65 percent to 22 percent, with 12 percent undecided.

"The reason why we are running these ads is there is a name ID problem," Crim acknowledged, "just like any state senator would have a name ID problem."

Iowa stump trip starts with small ethical misstep

With Democratic presidential politics heating up, state Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr., a Prince George's County Democrat, flew to Iowa last weekend with his fiancee and two aides to campaign for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Giannetti said he was impressed at the organization and professionalism of the Dean operation. Arriving in Des Moines at midnight Friday, he was told to return at 10 a.m. Saturday, when he attended a training class on how the state caucus works, and was then dispatched to knock on doors in a heavily Democratic precinct.

"We were supposed to rank them 1 to 5," he said, with 1 being solid Dean backers and 5 being supporters of other candidates.

On Sunday, the Maryland gang worked the telephone banks.

"I was utilized to the max," Giannetti said. "It was really great."

In his exuberance to promote Dean, however, Giannetti may have crossed an ethical line.

The senator sent out an e-mail release last Friday, promoting the trip and encouraging young people who want to get involved in politics to contact his office. The message was distributed through his official Senate e-mail address, a no-no.

"In general, legislative resources should not be used for political campaign purposes," said William Somerville, an attorney who advises the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics. "When I learn of such things, I contact the legislator's office and remind them of the standard."

"These guys are political animals, and politics gets into the normal discourse all the time," Somerville said. "It only becomes a big deal if they are out there raising political campaign money using legislative resources."

Giannetti conceded that the e-mail may have been improper, and said he should probably have used his campaign account instead.

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