Pipkin not rushing into First District race
Republican State Sen. E. J. Pipkin, who played a pivotal role in Maryland's first congressional district last year, says he'll announce his 2010 election plans "relatively soon." But you might not want to hold your breath.
Usually, "the earlier, the better" is the rule in politics, particularly when it comes to challenging an incumbent. But the wealthy lawmaker seems to be in no hurry to announce a decision right away.
And the way things are developing, there seems to be no urgent reason for him to make a move.
Pipkin has a choice. The safe and easy path would be to try for another term in the state legislature.
The riskier path would be to take on Andy Harris, his Maryland Senate colleague, for the Republican nomination for Congress in the First District. The winner gets to face freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil, one of the most endangered Democrats in Congress.
The loser would be out of elective office. Harris and Pipkin can't run for Congress and for re-election to the legislature at the same time; so taking on Kratovil means giving up a seat in the General Assembly.
In 2008, analysts concluded, Pipkin acted as a catalyst. He helped generate upheaval in the district, which spans the Chesapeake Bay, in the Republican primary. As the third man in the race, Pipkin pulled moderate votes from incumbent Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest and helped Harris unseat the veteran congressman.
Pipkin, in an interview, said that he's continuing his "listening tour" of the district and "really" hasn't made a decision yet.
He said that he'd make up his mind "relatively soon," then made it clear that this could be a highly flexible frame of reference .
"That's the beautiful thing about 'relatively soon,'" he joked, acknowledging that "soon" might not be until some time next year.
Time, at the moment, appears to be Pipkin's friend.
He can sit back and watch the situation ripen in the Republican primary and the district in general. The filing deadline for the September primary is still more than 10 months away.
Harris, eager for a rematch of a race he nearly won against Kratovil last year, hasn't blown the doors off the bank yet. The Baltimore County lawmaker's congressional campaign account contained about $210,000 at the end of June, the latest available information at the Federal Election Commission.
Pipkin, a late entry in the 2008 Republican primary, spent $1 million of his own money on that race (and $2 million against Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski in 2004).