Md. incumbents sweep state primary
Gilchrest, Bartlett hold off challenge for House seats; Mikulski an easy winner
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski easily defeated token Democratic opposition in her quest for a fourth six-year term and will face Republican state Sen. E.J. Pipkin in the November election. (Sun photo by Algerina Perna / March 2, 2004)
In the 6th District Republican primary, Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, 77, defeated Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle, who accused the six-term incumbent of being in opposition to Bush administration policies and straying from party ideology.
"I'm very pleased that the voters of the 6th District have recognized that I have been working very hard to serve their interests for the last 11 years and believe I've earned the right to another two-year term," Bartlett said last night.
On the Eastern Shore, Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a seven-term Republican, turned back an aggressive opponent who labeled the moderate lawmaker a "radical environmentalist" out of step with the 1st District.
State Sen. Richard F. Colburn of Cambridge waged a dogged campaign in the GOP primary to broaden the rural political base he has built during two decades in the General Assembly. But he remained largely unknown throughout the far-flung district, which encompasses the nine Eastern Shore counties and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.
"It felt more tense this time because Colburn has a long history here and he's a known conservative," Gilchrest said last night at his district headquarters. "But our message hasn't changed. There's a mix of people in this district who prefer pragmatism to party politics. People want someone who's going to do more than just show up and shake hands."
Emerging victorious with their party's renomination for a two-year term were Democratic Reps. Albert R. Wynn of Prince George's County, representing the 4th District; Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, representing the 8th; and Benjamin L. Cardin, in the 3rd District, and Elijah E. Cummings, in the 7th, both of Baltimore.
The state's two other congressmen, Democratic Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County and Steny H. Hoyer of Southern Maryland, faced no primary opposition.
In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski easily defeated token opposition in her quest for a fourth six-year term and will face Republican state Sen. E.J. Pipkin in the November election.
Mikulski stood onstage in the ballroom of Baltimore's Wyndham Hotel and thanked hundreds of supporters who waved signs and cheered. She was surrounded by Congressmen Cummings, Cardin and Ruppersberger, Mayor Martin O'Malley and other elected officials.
"They picked us ... because they knew we would fight for them," Mikulski said. "We care about their day-to-day needs, and we care about making that into policy."
Pipkin handily clinched his party's nomination, fending off eight other Republican challengers.
Opinion polls have shown that name recognition, popularity and voter support remain high for Mikulski, who was elected to the Senate in 1986 and captured 71 percent of the vote in 1992 and 1998. But Republican strategists believe that Pipkin could pose a significant challenge if he can persuade voters who like her personality but disagree with her politics to vote for him.
Pipkin, 47, is a former Wall Street bond salesman who cut his political teeth on the Eastern Shore by fighting a plan to dump dredge material cleared from shipping channels in open water near the Bay Bridge.
In 2002, the Stevensville resident lent himself $573,000 in a successful bid to unseat veteran state Sen. Walter M. Baker.
"All I can say is that dreams do come true," Pipkin said last night. "Here's a Dundalk boy representing the Eastern Shore who won his party's nomination for U.S. Senate. That's as good as it gets."
He said he knows that defeating Mikulski is a daunting challenge, but says his campaign has "done a lot of homework." The first-term state senator said he will focus his campaign on job creation, protecting the Chesapeake Bay and affordable health care.
In the conservative 6th District, Republican voters supported Bartlett's bid for a seventh term to represent the district that spans seven counties from Western Maryland to Harford County.
The congressman ran a formidable campaign that included a visit from Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke at a breakfast fund-raiser that took in more than $150,000 for Bartlett's re-election.
Rolle characterized Bartlett's opposition to the death penalty, hesitant support for the war in Iraq and misgivings about the Patriot Act as examples of party disloyalty.
In the 1st District, Gilchrest, 57, a former high school history teacher who grew up in New Jersey, has maintained a moderate voting record since entering the House of Representatives in 1990.
While frequently drawing the ire of conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, the low-key Gilchrest has been the darling of environmental activists.
The campaign has been intense in recent weeks, prompting charges from both sides about dirty tricks involving everything from biased opinion surveys to the support that Gilchrest received from party officials, which prompted Colburn to threaten to bolt the party.
Colburn, 54, has said that low voter turnout would work in his favor, because many of his supporters, including opponents of gun control and abortion, were thought to be more likely to go to the polls.
However, a late blitz of radio advertisements apparently failed to overcome Gilchrest's name recognition and homespun image.
Sun staff writer Tom Pelton contributed to this article.