E.J. PIPKIN: Campaigning in Cecil, but for what job?

   Our spies around the county tell us that State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Upper Shore, was in full campaign mode on Route 213 in Cecil County on Wednesday morning, waving from a pick up truck with aides holding signs declaring, “Pipkin for State Senate.” Now that would seem like the declarative statement many have been waiting for to answer the question: what is E.J. running for in 2010?

   But, no, like that movie ‘international man of mystery,’ Sen. Pipkin’s  signs do not necessarily reflect his intentions, according to an aide.

   “This was part of the Senator’s listening tour,” said Katie Nash, Pipkin’s Chief of Staff. “He’s continuing to listen to citizens,” she said, after doing similar roadside waves in Queen Anne’s County on Tuesday.  He will also be in Kent County on Thursday, waving signs to protest the Governor’s proposed closing of the Upper Shore Mental Health Center, she added.

   (As we were writing this post, we received an automated “robocall” from Pipkin urging us to call the Governor to protest the proposed closing of the Kent County facility as part of the latest budget cuts.)

   Although the signs said “Pipkin for State Senate,” that doesn’t necessarily mean he is indeed running for re-election to that post, the aide said. So he might still be looking at the Republican nomination to run against incumbent Democratic Congressman Frank Kratovil in the 1st District, or challenging Democratic incumbent state Comptroller Peter Franchot.

    If Pipkin does not seek re-election to the state Senate, we’d put our bets on the Comptroller slot. Republican State Sen. Andy Harris– who beat both Pipkin and former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the 1st District Congressional Republican primary two years ago– is already fund-raising for a general election re-match with Kratovil and has strong backing from the national Republican party. 

   Pipkin usually self-funds most of his campaigns, but given the uber price tags of the last 1st District Congressional race, there’s only so much self-funding a candidate can do. Federal campaigns are much more restrictive in donation rules than Maryland election law so it is virtually impossible to shift state campaign funds to a federal contest.

      So far in the 2010 state election cycle, Pipkin has raised a modest $60,348, with expenditures of $43,773. Most of his donations– 38 percent– came from Political Action Committees based in Maryland with 32 percent coming from  individual donors, according to state election records.

    Comptroller Franchot has been running a non-stop re-election campaign almost since the day he was elected but  it is not a job that most voters pay a lot of attention to until shortly before the election.  It’s a post that could be a good fit for Pipkin, with his Wall Street financial background, and the fact that it really doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting  day in and day out. 

 But it’s a job that does require a lot of campaigning and PR– remember Willie Don Schaefer, and before that Louie Goldstein? Not many voters had the slightest idea what they actually did in the job but they sure did campaign a lot.  Pipkin has shown he likes campaigning, a lot, and the Comptroller job might suit his style and aspirations.  A statewide win for the Comptroller slot would position him for a potential gubernatorial or U.S. Senate bid in the future.

   But he’d have his work cut out for him challenging Franchot, who is very popular in his home base in the populous Montgomery County  and other suburban areas of the state where Pipkin barely registered on the political pulse in his last statewide race against U.S. Sen. Barbara Milkulski.

    Meanwhile, as Sen. Pipkin waves signs that may or  may not signal his intentions, other Republicans are left in the lurch on whether they can aspire to his state Senate seat or not.  Del. Richard Sossi, R-36, has signaled his interest if Pipkin moves up or on. Sossi is one of the most visible members of the Cecil County delegation, even though he doesn’t actually live in the county.  Last time we checked his Twitter schedule, we were exhausted just contemplating all those community meetings he attends.

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