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A First District update

Some of this you may have seen in other places, and some you may not have. But you won’t know what I think about it until you finish reading tonight’s post.

We’ll begin with the Andy Harris campaign, which secured another endorsement from a national group earlier this week. The Eagle Forum PAC endorsed Harris, but whether Phyllis Schlafly’s group would turn any voters not already backing Harris to his column remains to be seen. In general, the group endorses fairly conservative candidates, including the unsuccessful 2006 U.S. Senate runs of Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and George Allen of Virginia. Nine of the ten winners they backed for Congress last time belong to the Republican Study Committee, the conservative wing of the House. Moreover, in 2004 the group backed Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland’s 6th District, the state’s most right-wing Congressman.

Competing in the endorsement battle, E.J. Pipkin acquired the backing of Maryland Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley. In part, the press release noted:

The Maryland State Senate Republican Minority Leader Senator David Brinkley has endorsed E.J. Pipkin for Congress. Brinkley states, “E.J. Pipkin represents the best choice for the voters in the 1st District. His nine year commitment of fighting for the people of the 1st makes him the best choice for the Republicans and the voters as a whole. E.J. Pipkin is the best candidate to keep the 1st Congressional seat in Republican hands.”

At home with his family, Pipkin stated, “I am very pleased to have the endorsement of such a respected leader in the Republican Party. We have worked together for a number of years and Senator Brinkley knows that I have always been a team player for the Republican Party and a tenacious fighter for the people.”

Again, Pipkin leads with the premise (echoed by Brinkley) that only he can keep the seat safe from the Democrats. And again I note that unless they find the Republican candidate in bed with a dead girl or a live boy, I don’t believe the Democrat will get more than 40% of the vote in this district.

But I did finally get a little bit of polling information on the race, along with some context. However, I will caution readers that the polling was done by E.J. Pipkin’s pollster so that needs to be taken into account. Under “Major Findings” the pollster, McLaughlin & Associates, notes:

  • Wayne Gilchrest’s support has dropped off from 39% in November to 33% now, whereas a “strong incumbent” would “expect” 50% of the vote in the primary. Also, Gilchrest’s “hard re-elect” of 28.7% trails the 35% expected from a strong incumbent.
  • Gilchrest’s job approval sits at 36% along with a 60% disapproval rating.
  • Andy Harris’s polling number has gone from 25% in November to 26.8% now.
  • E.J. Pipkin’s polling number is 27.2%, having just got into the race.

McLaughlin’s summary notes that, “The momentum has shifted…it is clear that E.J. Pipkin is closing in on extremely vulnerable incumbent Congressman Gilchrest, and given the appropriate resources, Pipkin is in a good position to win the primary election for Congress.”

First of all, the methodology may be a little suspect because of a pretty small sample size (300 likely Republican primary election voters), so the margin of error is a pretty hefty 5.7 percent. This means that theoretically any of the three could be in the lead, not to mention that 13% of the voters are either still undecided or still backing the two longshots remaining in the race. It’s also unclear how the sample was split among portions of the district, nor do we have the actual poll questions and order. Obviously Pipkin is looking for a bandwagon effect with this release, because if the poll had him at 10% he wouldn’t be trumpeting the fact. On the other hand, neither Gilchrest nor Harris has come out disputing the results.

Pipkin also blasted Harris recently for a negative mailing Andy’s campaign did just in time for Christmas. The contention between the two seems to be on who is more conservative. So I decided to go to a unbiased arbiter called the Maryland Accountability Project, which grades the General Assembly on how conservative their voting patterns are. While my idea of conservative and theirs differ to an extent, this is a good rough guide.

in 2006, E.J. Pipkin scored a 40 on their scale (and has a lifetime 57 rating) while Andy Harris scored 65 (lifetime rating of 78). Here’s a few of the votes they’ve parted on over the 2005 and 2006 regular sessions (I guess the MAP is bit slow on 2007, or they just plain gave up with Governor O’Malley in office. Accountability? What accountability?)

2006 session:

  • SB110 (2007 budget) – Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 43-2).
  • SB897 (affirmative action for state contractors) – Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 38-9).

2005 session:

  • SB478 (early voting) – Harris yes, Pipkin no (passed 34-9).
  • HB1525 (hotel rental tax for Wicomico County) – Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 40-5).
  • HB907 (condemnation of private property for private entity in the town of Boonsboro) – Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 42-4).
  • HB776 (union service fee allowed to be adopted by Charles County Board of Education for non-union personnel) – Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 37-7).
  • HB398 (crime for murder of viable fetus) – Pipkin yes, Harris no (passed 36-10).

The last one surprised me, so I had to double-check. Indeed it was true. But on the whole if you believe MAP’s version of conservatism (and they explain the rationale on what they consider a “conservative” position fairly well), then Harris is definitely more conservative in a good apples-to-apples comparison.

One other item I just saw on my feeds – my Red Maryland cohort Brian Griffiths wonders just how truthful Andy Harris’s campaign is. I did my best to set him a little straighter.

And so ends another news roundup. It’s sort of funny that I never get the Harris or Gilchrest mailings but get all the Pipkin ones. Oh well, I still get plenty of stuff to write about and that’s what I like most to do with the info.

Crossposted on monoblogue.






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