- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

GRASONVILLE, Md. — State Sen. E.J. Pipkin declared his candidacy yesterday for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski, beginning what he acknowledged will be an underdog campaign against a popular three-term incumbent.

But Mr. Pipkin, a Republican who has the backing of top Maryland party officials, said Miss Mikulski can be defeated.

“We’re going to have a competitive race here. All I know is, I got into this to win,” he said.

Miss Mikulski was elected with 60 percent of the vote in 1986 and re-elected in 1992 and 1998 with 71 percent of the vote. Josh White, executive director of the state Democratic Party, scoffed at the idea she is vulnerable to a challenge.

“There is no scenario where E.J. Pipkin can defeat Barbara Mikulski, and Republicans know it,” Mr. White said.

Mr. Pipkin, 46, announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination at news conferences in Queen Anne’s, Montgomery, Frederick and Baltimore counties. He was joined by his wife, Alisa, and three children — Carter, 10, Meredith, 9, and Tyler, 7.

During those appearances, he laid out the bare outlines of the coming campaign, attacking Miss Mikulski’s record on jobs, taxes, education and the environment.

“I will fight to bring jobs to Maryland. I will fight for education. I will fight to protect the Chesapeake Bay,” Mr. Pipkin said at his initial stop in Grasonville in his Eastern Shore senatorial district.

He contrasted his opposition to a plan to dump mud dredged from shipping channels into the Chesapeake Bay north of the Bay Bridge with Miss Mikulski’s support for the proposal, which was later abandoned by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

“Barbara Mikulski has an unmatched environmental record,” Mr. White said. “The fact that they are attacking her on the environment is a joke.”

Mr. Pipkin won election to the state Senate last year, defeating longtime Democratic incumbent Walter M. Baker in his first try for public office.

He financed the campaign mostly with his own funds, and Republicans are counting on him to kick in a considerable amount of personal funds for the race against Miss Mikulski. Mr. Pipkin would not say how much of his money he is willing to commit to the race or how much he needs to raise for a statewide campaign.

He also refused to answer questions about his stand on issues such as abortion, gun control and the war in Iraq.

“We have over 13 months to talk about those issues,” he said.

Miss Mikulski, 67, served 10 years in the House of Representatives before she was elected to the Senate in 1986. In a recent poll by Gonzales Research and Marketing, an Annapolis-based company, 64 percent of voters questioned said they approved of the job she was doing and only 13 percent disapproved, with the rest having no opinion.

Matthew Crenson, political science professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said Miss Mikulski is popular with voters because “they think she is straightforward, no nonsense.”

Republicans say there are several reasons why Mr. Pipkin has a chance to succeed where other Republicans have failed.

Delegate Richard Sossi, Queen Anne’s County Republican, said Mr. Pipkin has the personal wealth to jump-start his campaign and has the advantage of being an elected official, unlike two previous opponents — frequent Republican candidate Ross Z. Pierpont in 1998 and Alan Keyes in 1992.

State Republican Chairman John Kane said Mr. Pipkin has gone through the rigors of a political campaign and “has the fire in the belly” to wage an effective statewide campaign.

Mr. Pipkin also will have the support of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and will be running on a ticket headed by President Bush, a “very popular president no matter what the polls say,” Mr. Kane said.

Liz Poston, a spokeswoman for Miss Mikulski, said Marylanders know that the incumbent “is a strong and effective fighter for jobs and families.”

“They are not looking for a rubber stamp for George Bush’s failed economic policies,” she said.

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