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Senate candidates Mikulski, Pipkin discuss farr-apart views

October 28, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

The start of their separate political careers sounds like something from "Paul Revere's Ride."

Barbara Mikulski got into politics because of land: the threat of a highway rolling through residential Baltimore.

E.J. Pipkin ran for office because of water: the Chesapeake Bay and its potential for being polluted.

Now, they're facing off for Mikulski's U.S. Senate seat.

Mikulski, a Democrat, said her lengthy time in public office - more than 30 years, including 17 years as a senator - matters.

"This is not time for a beginner," she said. "It's time for someone who's seasoned and experienced."

Pipkin, a Republican, was elected to the Maryland Senate in 2002. He said he was freshly off the campaign trail when he was asked to run again, against Mikulski.

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"She's just a Maryland personality, shaking her fist on TV, saying she'll defend Maryland," he said. "Then, she votes very differently."

When President Bush asked Congress for the authority to invade Iraq, Mikulski voted no. She said Saddam Hussein was "a thug," but Bush needed to "take the world with us" to war, through the United Nations.

Pipkin - who will turn 49 on Monday - said that was the wrong approach then and now, even though Bush's assertion on the presence of weapons of mass destruction was wrong.

"The president of the United States came to the U.S. Senate," Pipkin said. "He had information that was the best available. At various levels, he asked for support. I would have given it to him. ... The U.S. is better off with Saddam Hussein gone."

Pipkin said he would have voted for the president's $87 billion war package.

Mikulski, 68, said she voted for the package mainly to support America's troops. However, $20 billion for rebuilding Iraq should be "a loan, not a giveaway" because of a large oil reserve there, she said.

Both candidates support the USA Patriot Act, but with reservations. Pipkin is concerned about "sneak and peek," in which the government can search someone's home, then get a warrant. Mikulski said the act needs a "sunset," or ending, date, at which time it can be re-examined.

Pipkin attacked Mikulski on taxes, military spending and the Chesapeake Bay.

"There's definitely a philosophical difference," he said. "I believe money that you earn is yours and the government is entitled to a little. She believes it's the government's money and you're entitled to a little."

Pipkin said Mikulski voted 354 times for higher taxes on Social Security, gas, utilities and more.

"That's a bogus number," Mikulski said. "That's out of the right-wing cookie cutter (manual)."

She said she has voted for middle-class tax cuts, to eliminate the marriage penalty, to increase tax credits for families and to reduce the estate tax.

Pipkin said Mikulski has voted against the B-2 bomber and F-18 fighter aircrafts and against military pay increases, but to raise her own salary.

"Once again, it's bogus," Mikulski said.

She said she has voted 17 times to increase U.S. military pay. The planes might have been portions of large defense bills, she said.

Mikulski acknowledged voting for a cost-of-living pay increase for senators, at the same rate other federal employees would get.

Pipkin, who earned his state senate seat by defeating 24-year incumbent Walter Baker, grew up in Dundalk, Md. He's married and has three children.

He lives on Kent Island in Queen Anne's County, Md. His district includes Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne's counties.

He worked in the financial market in New York for about 16 years. "It was a seven-day, 90-hour-a-week job," he said. "But that's kind of been the story of my whole life."

He said he ran for office because Baker was the only state senator to vote against a bill to prevent dumping in the Chesapeake Bay.

He said Mikulski was "on the sideline" as the bay lost crabs, oysters, grasses and fishermen.

Mikulski also called that "bogus." She gave as an example of her support more than $45 million in water and sewer grants for Western Maryland.

Mikulski is single. She grew up in East Baltimore.

She said she ran for Baltimore City Council - and won - in 1971 after helping to battle against a 16-land highway around Fells Point and the Inner Harbor.

She said she is proudest of pushing for full funding for veterans' health care and ways to decrease oil use, which includes Mack Trucks' research and development of hybrid trucks.

The election is Tuesday. In addition to Mikulski and Pipkin, Green Party candidate Maria Allwine and Constitution Party candidate Thomas Trump are on the ballot.

A U.S. Senate term is six years. The current salary is $158,100.

A Maryland state senator received $37,500 this year and will receive $40,500 next year. Each term is four years.

According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, about 2.9 million people were registered to vote by the end of September, including 1.6 million Democrats; 900,000 Republicans; and 400,000 unaffiliated with a party.

At Opensecrets.org - a Web site, run by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, that compiles campaign contribution data - Mikulski is listed as having raised $5.9 million and having $2.5 million left as of Sept. 30.

Pipkin is listed as having raised $1.3 million - about 60 percent of which was his own money - and having $114,000 left.

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