Del. Richard Sossi Files for Re-Election–But Hedges Bets Against Pipkin Moves

June 9, 2010

   Del. Richard Sossi, a Queen Anne’s County Republican, has filed for re-election to his 36th District House of Delegates seat– but that doesn’t mean he has a magic divining rod to determine the intentions of State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who may run for re-election but then again might run for Comptroller and vacate his Senate seat.

   For months, Sossi has, in effect, been running for both his old House seat and for the 36th District Senate seat, raising a substantial campaign warchest that could be used for a race for either post. On Tuesday, June 8, Sossi filed for re-election to his House seat, according to state Elections Board records. Those records also show that Pipkin had not filed for re-election or any other state elected position.

   You wouldn’t want to play poker with Sossi, who is continuing to hedge his bets. “Yes, I filed for re-election,” Sossi told The Cecil Times. “But I also picked up another application to run for Senate and an application to withdraw” from the House campaign, he said with a chuckle.  The filing deadline is less than a month away, and Sossi could still file for the Senate seat if Pipkin decides to vacate it, and then withdraw his House seat candidacy.

   Sossi said he called Pipkin’s office as a courtesy to inform the senator of Sossi’s intentions to file for re-election. But Sossi still has had no word from Pipkin on just what he plans to do.  “In fairness, I don’t think he really knows in his own mind yet what he is going to do,” Sossi said of Pipkin.

    Sossi said he felt it was “the fair thing to do” to send a signal to other Republicans who might be interested in his own seat. Foremost among them is Diana Waterman, vice chair of the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee, who has been on pins and needles waiting for the trickle-down decision-making from on high. Sossi said he called Waterman to inform her of his filing for re-election, and she agreed not to run against him, but would be interested in running if Sossi shifts his focus to the Senate seat.   So far, no Democratic candidate has come forward to run for the seat.

All the mixed signals and silence from Pipkin has roiled some local Republicans– and confounded Democrats– as many potential candidates are left to play a waiting game to see what Pipkin will do. As the Cecil Times reported last fall, Pipkin has been periodically campaigning with old ‘re-elect” signs and tee shirts implying he would run for his Senate seat. But then his aides insist no decision has been made and that other possible races are still on the table.

    Pipkin appears to be focusing on the state Comptroller position as an alternative to another four years in the state Senate. He is believed to have commissioned a poll to test the waters but the results have not been disclosed. If he does get into the race against incumbent Democrat Peter Franchot, Pipkin would first have to win the Republican primary, in which two others have already filed: William H. Campbell, a political newcomer but an experienced financial manager and former Chief Financial Officer of Amtrak; and a young student from Baltimore County, Brendan Madigan.

    Franchot has been campaigning for re-election virtually from the day he won the post four years ago. He has a current cash-on-hand campaign fund balance of $513,413, according to a report filed in mid-January with the state Board of Elections.  For anyone but Pipkin, that much money in the bank would be a deterrant. But Pipkin , a former junk bond trader in New York, has a long history of self-financing his campaigns and given his past track record could match or even double that amount with his own checkbook.

  All the “what will Pipkin do” speculation hasn’t really changed Sossi’s campaigning. The House and Senate districts are the same– covering all of Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s County and part of Caroline– and Sossi is omni-present throughout the district even in non-election years. He is well ahead of his past fund-raising track record, as the Cecil Times reported in January here:

  Regardless of what seat he eventually REALLY runs for, Sossi is feeling good about this election season. “It’s going to be a Republican year,” he said, noting the top-of-the-ticket governor’s race by Republican Robert Ehrlich against incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley should bring out a strong GOP vote that will flow down to lower-ticket GOP races such as his own.

 Sossi was the top vote-getter of all three winning Delegates in the 36th in the last election. Del. Mary Roe Walkup, R,  who placed second in the vote tally last time, has announced she will not seek re-election this year to her Kent County-based seat. Del. Michael Smigiel, R,  of Cecil County, was in last place and did not carry his home county. (The 36th District elects three “resident delegates,” one each from Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, but voters in all those counties, plus part of Caroline County, vote for candidates from their own and the other counties.)

    Early voting is a new wrinkle in the campaign this year and Sossi said it is unclear what impact it will have on the 36th contests. He said some estimates project early ballots could amount to about 20 percent of the total votes cast. “It is what it is,” he said, adding that it will make it harder for candidates to reach out to voters in the final days of the campaign.

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