Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pipkin’s ICC Gambit

Why is Republican Senator E.J. Pipkin (R-36) sponsoring a bill to stop further spending on the Intercounty Connnector, a high-profile project that is a top priority of the business community? We can think of several reasons, all relevant to the next Congressional District 1 race – a contest in which Pipkin may very well run again.

1. Opposition to “Government Waste”
Like ICC opponents in Montgomery County, Pipkin can claim that the ICC is a “wasteful” expenditure given the state’s recent cutbacks in transportation projects. Many Montgomery ICC enemies say that the project’s money should be spent on transit instead, but Pipkin would have a different goal in mind.

2. Against Montgomery County, for the Eastern Shore
Pipkin can make an argument that many outside Montgomery County embrace: Montgomery gets too much transportation money. It is getting the $2.4 billion ICC, plus two out of three of the state’s major new transit lines, plus a large annual subsidy to WMATA. Pipkin can say that other projects in the “neglected” Eastern Shore are due for financing. This will be a popular argument in District 1. It also adds a touch of populism to go against the state’s biggest, and supposedly wealthiest, jurisdiction.

3. Pro-environment
If Pipkin makes it out of the Republican primary, his anti-ICC bill will form part of a nice pitch to the environmental movement. Maryland environmentalists are convinced that the ICC will promote global warming and increase stormwater runoff. In fact, Governor O’Malley’s support for the ICC was the biggest black mark on his mid-term evaluation by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. This fits with Pipkin’s past efforts to depict himself as a pro-environment, pro-Bay Republican and will make him more competitive against Frank Kratovil in a general election.

The bill’s co-sponsor list is interesting. It includes Democrats James Brochin (D-42), George Della (D-46), Brian Frosh (D-16), David Harrington (D-47), Paul Pinsky (D-22), and Jamie Raskin (D-20) and Republicans Richard Colburn (R-37) and Nancy Jacobs (R-34). Frosh, Pinsky and Raskin are three of the most liberal Senators in Maryland and Jacobs is one of the most conservative Senators. Democratic Delegate Barbara Frush (D-21) is the sponsor of the House version of the bill.

Regardless of the policy implications of stopping the ICC, this bill is a very astute move for Senator Pipkin. Have the Democratic co-sponsors considered whether they should be helping Pipkin - and perhaps even strengthening him - for a possible 2010 showdown against Frank Kratovil?