Mikulski set to announce bid for fourth Senate term

Democrat to launch campaign tomorrow

focus on `new economy'

January 18, 2004|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is scheduled to officially announce her bid for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate tomorrow, saying she wants to protect American jobs and continue to prepare Maryland for the "new economy" by investing in science and education.

"It is science that is going to help us solve the problem of what's killing our oysters, and that's good for the watermen, good for restaurants. It's good for Maryland," Mikulski, 67, said yesterday during an interview at her Little Italy office. "It's science that is going to come up with new ideas, and that's going to help us develop new products. ... This is where the jobs are going to come from."

On Friday she launched her re-election bid at American Legion Post 91 in Cambridge - near the Eastern Shore district represented by state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, her likely Republican rival . She used a bright red Saturn Vue sport utility vehicle dubbed the "Barbmobile" to advertise her campaign Web site and distribute pins and bumper stickers.

And yesterday in Washington County, Mikulski, an East Baltimore native, rolled out to Funkstown, where supporters rallied at the local volunteer fire department.

By the time she arrives tomorrow at the Patterson Theatre in Highlandtown - where she saw Treasure Island on her first date, as an eighth-grader - Mikulski will do what she has done three times: declare her candidacy for the Senate. She said she is not taking the race for granted.

"Whoever's the [Republican] candidate, and let's presume it's Mr. Pipkin, he's not known today, but he's going to be known in six months," Mikulski said. "He didn't get to be a millionaire and win a state Senate race by sitting around."

Mikulski casts the shadow of a political giant who after nearly two decades in the Senate appears hard to tumble. She has more than $2 million in campaign funds.

But Republican strategists said she is smart not to dismiss Pipkin, a former Wall Street bond salesman who lent himself $573,000 in a successful bid to unseat 24-year state Sen. Walter M. Baker. Pipkin has raised $120,000 in contributions.

"She's tough. There's no doubt about that," Republican political consultant Kevin Igoe said. "But Pipkin is a good candidate. He's very energetic, well-organized."

Igoe says he believes that Pipkin can become a significant challenge to Mikulski if he can persuade voters who like her personality but disagree with her politics to vote for him.

"I've always felt that her real strength is based on perception and style more so than on issues," he said.

A recent Sun poll suggests that name recognition, popularity and voter support remain high for Mikulski - who was elected to the Senate in 1986 and captured 71 percent of the vote in 1992 and 1998.

Respondents to the Maryland Poll, conducted for the newspaper and Sunspot.net Jan. 2 through 5 by Bethesda-based Potomac Inc., gave Mikulski a 72 percent to 19 percent favorable/unfavorable rating, compared with 7 percent to 3 percent for Pipkin. In a matchup, likely voters backed Mikulski 65 percent to 22 percent, with 12 percent undecided, the poll found. The survey of 1,200 likely voters has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

To increase his name recognition, Pipkin launched a statewide media campaign this month.

Pipkin, 47, cut his political teeth on the Eastern Shore by fighting a plan to dump in open water near the Bay Bridge dredge material cleared from shipping channels.

Mikulski was a social worker whose political career began in the late 1960s, when she organized neighbors to block the expansion of Interstate 83 through Fells Point.

She won election to the Baltimore City Council in 1971 and was elected to the House of Representatives five years later. Since her election to the Senate, Mikulski has evolved into a Washington player as senior Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee that controls funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, veterans, housing and urban programs, and other federal agencies.

The primary election is March 2; the general election is Nov. 2.

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