Nancy Jacobs Elected Senate GOP Leader; Pipkin Named Whip

January 22, 2011

State Senator Nancy Jacobs (R-34) has been elected to the top Republican leadership post in the Senate, just a few months after she was voted out of the party leadership. The surprise turnabout came after a week of turmoil among Senate Republicans and signals a shift to the right in the chamber’s GOP caucus.

As part of the leadership shake-up Friday afternoon in Annapolis, another Upper Shore Senator E.J. Pipkin (R-36) was selected for the second-ranking Republican Whip post.

The opening for top GOP leader in the state Senate came after the surprise resignation of Senator Allan Kittleman (R-Howard County) from the leadership post because he supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, which most of the 12-member Republican Senate caucus oppose.

Kittleman has described himself as a “social moderate” on some of the hot button issues such as civil unions or same-sex marriage that will be coming up in this year’s General Assembly session. (A bill to legalize same-sex marriages was introduced this past week by the Democrats’ Senate Majority Leader, Rob Garagiola, of Montgomery County.)

Jacobs is a former leader in the Concerned Women of America conservative group and has been a staunch conservative on social issues.

Commenting on her election as Minority Leader, Jacobs wrote on her Facebook page: “I’m honored to have been chosen leader of our Republican Senate Caucus. I’m looking forward to serving with Senator E. J. Pipkin our new Minority Whip. E.J. is an expert on fiscal issues and one of the brightest senators in Annapolis. We should make a good team.”

The selection of Jacobs was a Phoenix-like rise for her, after she was ousted from the GOP leadership just a few months ago.

As the Cecil Times reported previously here: Jacobs lost re-election to her post as GOP Whip late last year. Senator David Brinkley, of Frederick County, got the whip slot in a leadership re-shuffling—he had been the top leader but stepped down two years ago, and Kittleman moved up to take the job. Kittleman was re-elected leader a few months ago.

But Kittleman shocked the GOP caucus by resigning last week, and there may have been some leftover resentment against Brinkley who had supported Kittleman’s leadership bid. Brinkley sought to move up to his old top leadership post in Friday’s election, but the caucus chose Jacobs instead.

The shake-up also cleared the way for Pipkin to move up to the whip slot.

Jacobs represents parts of Harford and Cecil counties, and she owes her re-election in November to Cecil County voters who supported her overwhelmingly. She narrowly lost her Harford County home base to Democrat Art Helton but Cecil voters gave her the margin of victory.

The 2010 campaign was a bitter one, with Helton mounting last-minute attacks on Jacobs. The tone of the campaign, and Jacobs’ long years of service in the General Assembly, had led some local political observers to speculate that she might not run again when her seat is up in the 2014 elections. But her move up to the top leadership post for Senate Republicans could provide an incentive to remain in Annapolis.

Jacobs and Pipkin have had some strained political relations in the past, notably during the 2006 election season when they backed rival candidates for some local offices. But in last year’s General Assembly session, she co-sponsored two controversial bills initiated by Pipkin and Delegate Michael D. Smigiel to limit the Cecil County Commissioners’ ability to set property tax rates and to impose binding arbitration to benefit Cecil County Sheriff’s deputies. Both efforts failed, but a revised bill to permit collective bargaining without binding arbitration was approved.

The elevation of Pipkin to the GOP’s second-ranking post should boost his statewide visibility and enhance his prospects for a possible state office in the 2014 elections. Comptroller Peter Franchot is expected to run for governor, leaving the Comptroller spot—and its seat on the powerful state Board of Public Works—up for grabs. Pipkin was considering a run for the slot before he decided to seek re-election to the Senate in November.

Pipkin is also considered to be on a short list of potential GOP gubernatorial candidates in 2014, since the defeat of Robert Ehrlich in November has left the party with few prospects.

In Cecil County, there has been speculation that Pipkin might run for County Executive in 2012. Given his past history as a candidate for Congress and U.S. Senate, and his brighter prospects on the state level, worrying about trash problems at the Stemmers Run station or bumpy roads in Conowingo would be a step backward and seemingly out of political character for Pipkin.

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