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Wealthy State Senator to Join Gilchrest Primary

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest’s (R-Md.) tough re-election battle will take on a new twist tomorrow, when wealthy state Sen. E.J. Pipkin announces that he is joining the increasingly crowded Republican primary race.

Gilchrest already is in a showdown with state Sen. Andy Harris (R), a conservative who has the backing of the powerful Club for Growth. Robert Banks, a one-time aide to former Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R), also is in the race.

A source close to Pipkin said the Senator will announce his candidacy in four separate appearances tomorrow, beginning in Salisbury at 9 a.m.

Pipkin’s entry into the race changes the political dynamic, but it is hard to say how in the short term.

“That certainly makes it a competitive three-way race,” Kevin Igoe, a Maryland-based GOP consultant, said. “I don’t know how that affects it. I think it’s difficult to figure out without significant polling data.”

On one hand, Pipkin could dilute the anti-Gilchrest vote. But politically he is more in line with Gilchrest’s moderate views and he has a strong environmental record, much like the nine-term incumbent.

“People know there’s only one major conservative candidate in the race, and that’s me, and that’s not a bad place to be,” Harris said in an interview.

Pipkin, a former investment banker, spent $2 million of his own on a losing U.S. Senate bid in 2004.

“I assume he’s going to self-fund,” Harris said.

Seven of eight state Senators whose districts overlap with Gilchrest’s — Pipkin being the lone exception — are backing Harris, and one of them, state Sen. Lowell Stoltzfus (R), said Pipkin’s entry into the race is good news for the Congressman.

“E.J. is bombastic and full of ideas, but Wayne has his following. … Pipkin getting involved in the race will hurt Andy,” Stoltzfus said.

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