EJ Pipkin to Resign Senate Seat; Smigiel, Sossi to Contend for Appointment to Fill 36th Dist. Slot
State Sen. E.J. Pipkin of Elkton announced Monday he will resign his 36th District Senate seat, representing Cecil County and three other counties on the Upper Shore, to seek a new career in sports management. The surprise declaration set off a buzz of political speculation on a successor, both for an appointment to fill the remainder of Pipkin’s term and for the 2014 election.
Two names were in the forefront: Del. Michael Smigiel, a close Pipkin ally, and former Del. Dick Sossi—who was defeated for re-election after attacks on him by the Smipkin political organization led by Pipkin and Smigiel, both R-36. The choice of a successor for appointment to fill out the rest of Pipkin’s term is up to the Republican Central Committees in the four counties that comprise the 36th District: Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Caroline. (If the committees cannot agree on a candidate, the choice would be up to the governor.)
Late Monday night, Sossi said in a statement on Facebook that many people had contacted him since the Pipkin announcement late Monday afternoon and urged him to seek appointment to the seat. “Not one to beat around the bush, I have every intention to seek appointment to the seat and will be running for the Senate seat in 2014,” Sossi said.
Sossi has been working as a district representative for US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) since shortly after he was defeated for re-election in the multi-delegate 36th District by Steve Hershey, a Queen Anne’s County Republican who was a political newcomer before he was enlisted by the Smipkin organization to challenge Sossi in the GOP primary in 2010. Sossi had taken an independent course from the organization’s agenda.
But the Smipkins are in full control of the Cecil County GOP committee and dominate the Queen Anne’s panel, while they have been increasingly active in Kent and Caroline GOP party leadership. The Smipkin dominance of the party panels would give the advantage to Smigiel for an appointment. But the prospects for the 2014 election would be less certain: Smigiel was overwhelmingly defeated for a Cecil County judgeship in last year’s elections, although he remains popular in the non-Cecil County portion of the 36th District.
If Smigiel were to get the Senate appointment, that would create a ripple effect to fill Smigiel’s seat in the House of Delegates, with some speculation suggesting former Cecil County Commisioner James Mullin of Earleville as a prospect. Mullin lost his re-election bid in the 1st District to Alan McCarthy in the GOP primary last year.
In announcing his resignation, effective next week, Pipkin issued a statement, saying:
“My eleven years in the General Assembly has been a time of challenge as a Republican, a time of accomplishment as a State Senator and a time when I have learned much about people and what can be achieved when people are determined.
“One’s responsibilities to family and oneself often change the direction of life. So, it is with regret that I am resigning as Senator from District 36. My last day will be Monday, August 12, 2013. I will carry with me both the bitter and the sweet memories of the past eleven years. My family will be moving to Texas, where I will pursue studies at Southern Methodist University for a Masters of Science in Sport Management.
“I chose to resign now, rather than serve out my term, which ends in January 2015, in order to give the Republican who fills the 36th District Senate seat the advantage of serving the people until he or she runs for re-election.”
Pipkin, who made a fortune as a Wall Street junk bond trader, was first elected in 2002 when he defeated the powerful longtime Cecil County state Senator, Walter Baker. Pipkin then repeatedly ran unsuccessfully for higher office, including a bid for US Senate and a GOP primary fight for the US House. There was also considerable speculation that he would seek a statewide office, such as the Comptroller position.
But when Peter Franchot, the popular Comptroller who had been expected to run for governor in 2014, announced several months ago that he would run again for his post, that blocked a potential path to higher office for Pipkin. (SEE Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/12/franchot-to-run-again-for-state-comptroller-in-2014-move-may-limit-pipkin-options/ ]
Pipkin, who has been serving as the minority leader of the state Senate’s small GOP contingent, had been active on the Senate seat re-election campaign trail in recent months in the other counties of the 36th district, with multiple events in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. He also attended the recent Tawes crab feast and political gathering in Crisfield, the state’s annual summer ritual of steamed seafood and raw political glad-handing.
But now, with Pipkin not only leaving politics but leaving the state as well, what had been a potent source of both political clout and political campaign fundraising money for other candidates departs with him. However, Pipkin’s remaining political campaign funds could be transferred to other candidates.
In recent weeks, Pipkin has filed multiple amended campaign finance reports, revising his financial accountings going as far back as the 2012 pre-primary report that was due in March of 2012. His most recently due filing, posted in January of this year, originally listed a bank balance of $40,111. However, the multiple amended reports—all filed on 6/13/13—re-calculated his cash balances, with the result that his campaign committee now lists a much smaller figure of $17,985 in the bank as of the January 2013 filing deadline, according to reports posted with the state Board of Elections.