Cecil County Republicans Reject Senator Pipkin’s Local Interference
Last week’s primary offered a metaphor for what is wrong with the GOP in Maryland. There is much more effort and glee put into trying to damage other Republicans than there is in defeating the O’Malley agenda of more government and more taxes. Perhaps the low point of that was Senator David Brinkley’s disreputable campaign directed against Representative Roscoe Bartlett. Brinkley was not alone in this.
Cecil County Republican primary voters overwhelmingly favored Tari Moore for County Executive and Robert Hodge for County Council, both of whom were targets of negative mailers and robocalls issued by the “Friends of EJ Pipkin”, Senator Pipkin’s own campaign committee. In the week leading up to the primary, Republican primary voters were flooded with a series of negative mailers and robocalls, some of which were so over the top in their misrepresentation of the candidates as to seem ridiculous. One such mailer featured a photo of a person smoking an illicit drug and asked the question, “What were Tari Moore and Robert Hodge smoking?” Another mailer claimed that Moore and Hodge were “liberal” and were “peas in a pod” with Governor Martin O’Malley. One of the robocalls issued by EJ Pipkin’s campaign was a push poll, which is considered to be unethical among pollsters, because the purpose of a push poll is to persuade voters, rather than measure public opinion.Ironically, these same two candidates received endorsements of the Cecil County Republican Club and the Cecil Business Leaders for Better Government and were recommended by the local TEA party organization, the Cecil County Patriots for their fiscally conservative and business friendly track records. Congressman Andy Harris and Senator Nancy Jacobs also endorsed Robert Hodge and Tari Moore. EJ Pipkin’s own hand-picked candidates, who were intended to benefit from his negative campaign, did not receive the endorsement of a single conservative organization in Cecil County. One of his endorsed county council candidates, Keith Moore, is a political newcomer who registered as a Republican only minutes before the filing deadline when he decided to run for office. He was later approached by EJ Pipkin and asked if he would like to receive a Pipkin endorsement. Another of Pipkin’s choices for county council, Jim Mullin, donated $1000 in 2009 to Martin O’Malley’s re-election campaign. Pipkin’s pick for county executive, Mike A. Dawson, refused to participate in candidate forums sponsored by the local Republican Club as well as by the Cecil County Patriots.Many Republicans expressed outrage at the thousands of dollars being spent by EJ Pipkin to interfere in a local race in which he was not involved, using social networking sites to display their discontent. Particularly appalling to many who had been involved in the political scene was the misrepresentation of the records Tari Moore and Robert Hodge, who are widely respected among conservatives in Cecil County. The Cecil County Patriots took their concerns to the street, with approximately twenty active members staging a rally in Elkton on the Saturday prior to the election. Their signs targeted Pipkin’s interference in the election and the misleading messages in his ads.When the final results were tallied, Tari Moore ran away with the Republican County Executive nomination with 46% of the vote in a crowded field of 7 candidates, and Robert Hodge defeated Keith Moore for County Council by a 25% margin. Each of Pipkin’s other endorsed candidates were also overwhelmingly defeated, including Jim Mullin who lost his bid for county council by 24%, and current delegate Michael Smigiel who was rejected as a circuit court judge by a margin of 20% on the Republican ballot. The final results indicate that Cecil County Republicans rejected the tactics, the message, or both of the Pipkin political machine.