From the Money Talks, BS Walks Files

I think it is safe to say that E. J. Pipkin has higher aspirations that state senator in the minority party. He ran against Babs Mikulski for US Senate in a race that has been termed “spirited” but could equally be called “futile.”

We’ve has a burst of stories (here | here) riffing off Brian’s report that Senator Pipkin was tossing his hat into the ring to challenge Wayne Gilchrest for the congressional seat in MD-1.

There is no doubt that on paper Senator Pipkin is formidable candidate. He has strong ties to the Eastern Shore, high name recognition, and a fairly solid reputation within Republican circles. The question is neither if Senator Pipkin desires the seat (we most assuredly believe that he does) or if he could knock off Wayne Gilchrest (again we think he would have as good a chance as Andy Harris against a very weak Gilchrest in a two-man Republican primary) but whether he can actually mount a viable campaign at this late date. The filing period closes December 3. The primary is February 12. This gives him a week to get into the race, and 60 days until the vote is cast.

The obvious barrier to a Pipkin candidacy is money. While he has a lot of name recognition it is really hard to win a primary election against an opponent with a lot of money and name recognition using free media.

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Most significant fundraisers in MD-1 have already signed on with the Harris campaign and he has the endorsement of former governor Bob Ehrlich.
Some of these fundraisers could jump ship but they would have their work cut out for them.

To be charitable, Pipkin is not a fundraising animal. In his run against Senator Mikulski he raised about $660,000 in individual contributions and loaned his campaign some $1.6 million of his own money. His financial report from January 2007 shows that he still has $570,000+ in outstanding loans to his state senatorial campaign and his FEC report shows that as of October 2007 he still had $1.618 million owed to him by his federal senate campaign committee.

All told Senator Pipkin has dropped $2.2 million of his own money on his political career.

Can he keep it up?

I’m not his accountant or his wife so I don’t know. What seems certain is that if Mr. Pipkin decided to run he will have to do so on a self-financing basis through the primary. This will cost him another $500,000 if the fund raising by Mr. Gilchrest and Mr. Harris are any indication. If Mr. Pipkin takes this route it will trigger a provision in the campaign finance laws which will allow those contributors who have already maxed out their contributions to Mr. Harris to give more money.

If the primary goes Armageddon, it is worthwhile recalling that Mr. Harris is not exactly impoverished himself and as yet has not loaned his campaign money.

The reason Mr. Pipkin did not enter this race earlier was that he and Mr. Harris know that if they both run in the primary that only Mr. Gilchrest will benefit. Mr. Pipkin elected to sit out the race this summer.

At the time, however, Mr. Gilchrest didn’t look as vulnerable as he looks (and presumably polls) today. While the vulnerability of Mr. Gilchrest may have changed, the basic calculus has not. With Harris and Pipkin in the primary Gilchrest wins and goes back to the yellow-stripe Republican caucus in the House.

It is difficult to see how Mr. Pipkin mounts a challenge at this late date that is anything more than a spoiler. He should stay out of the race and endorse Senator Harris.

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