Mikulski, Pipkin to face off in debate

Public television to carry exchange tonight between U.S. Senate candidates

Election 2004

October 18, 2004|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

After sparring long-distance in a dozen separate television ads, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Baltimore Democrat, and her Republican challenger, state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, will meet tonight in a televised debate.

Mikulski and Pipkin have been embroiled in an increasingly volatile exchange of campaign commercials.

Pipkin, a first-term state legislator from the Eastern Shore, has accused the 28-year veteran of Capitol Hill of being out of touch with Marylanders and casting more than 350 votes to raise taxes during her career.

Mikulski has fired back with ads deriding Pipkin, a retired Wall Street bond trader, for making his fortune by selling junk bonds. Also known as high-yield bonds, junk bonds offer higher interest rates than safer government issues.

Maryland voters will get their first chance to see the candidates' differences from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Maryland Public Television. Three reporters - Wiley Hall of the Associated Press, Anne Kramer of radio station WBAL-AM and MPT's Lou Davis - will question the candidates. The format allows each candidate a 90-second opening statement, and each journalist will pose a question to Mikulski and Pipkin. They will have 90 seconds for response, with another minute to rebut their opponent's response. They will also get an opportunity to deliver closing statements. MPT and the League of Women Voters of Maryland is sponsoring the event.

Pipkin, running on a platform of fiscal conservatism and environmental activism, launched his political career five years ago when he derailed a plan for the dumping of dredge spoils in the Chesapeake Bay. In 2002, he defeated veteran Democratic lawmaker Walter M. Baker, the chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

As of Friday, Pipkin had spent more than $1 million of his own money on the race against Mikulski. Nearly all that cash has bought ad time on major television stations to highlight what he describes as Mikulski votes against military pay increases and the welfare of the bay. "Who knew?" is the catch phrase in his commercials.

A Gonzalez Research and Marketing poll released Oct. 7 showed likely voters favoring Mikulski over Pipkin 58 percent to 34 percent.

Mikulski, a former City Council member who spent a decade in the House of Representatives before becoming a senator 18 years ago, has cast herself as an advocate for military veterans, the elderly and the bay. Her campaign speaks of Mikulski's seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, saying she has used that post to help bring more than $1 billion in federal funds to the state this year.

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