ANNAPOLIS – The Republican caucus in the Maryland Senate voted Tuesday to retain its leadership for the next legislative session, turning aside a challenge to the GOP’s veteran minority leader by a first-term senator.
Sen. E. J. Pipkin failed to remove his fellow Eastern Shore Republican, Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, as leader of the 14-member Republican minority.
Following the hour-long, closed-door meeting, Stoltzfus and Pipkin stood side-by-side for reporters and Stoltzfus announced the leadership would remain the same for the coming session.
Sen. Andrew P. Harris of Baltimore County, the minority whip, also faced a leadership challenge from Sen. David R. Brinkley of Frederick County. But Brinkley was also defeated.
“We had a significant discussion, it was a positive experience as a caucus,” said Stoltzfus. “With a group of 14 senators it is going to be a healthy discussion.”
The senators would not go into the details of the meeting but maintained that the caucus was unified and ready for the coming year.
“The caucus has never been more united,” Stoltzfus said. “I look forward to working with Sen. Pipkin. He is energetic, bright and I look forward to working with him.”
Pipkin echoed Stoltzfus’s comments saying the caucus was a “united team.” Pipkin ran for the U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 2004 but was defeated.
The senators said with an election year coming, they are focused on getting Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. reelected, as well as all Republicans in the Senate.
This is not the first time Stoltzfus, the minority leader for five years and minority whip for three years before that, has survived a leadership challenge. Last session Harris was said to have been vying for the position.
Senators dismissed the meeting as a matter of procedure. “Every year it has to be done,” Harris said. “The leadership vote has to be taken before session.” “The vote keeps the continuity there we’ve established. Sen. Stoltzfus is very conservative. He’s a true gentleman and it’s earned him respect on both sides of the aisle,” said Sen. Richard F. Colburn, of the Eastern Shore. He noted that top Democrats have said the coming General Assembly session will be controversial because it is an election year, and “we need the compassion Stoltzfus brings to issues and the respect he receives from both sides of the aisle.”