Audrey Scott is surprise front-runner in race to replace Pipkin

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By Len Lazarick and Dan Menefee

For MarylandReporter.com

Audrey Scott with First Lady Katie O'Malley at Maryland Women's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, March 14, 2007.

Audrey Scott with First Lady Katie O’Malley at Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, March 14, 2007. (Governor’s Press Office)

In the insider race to succeed Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin in the seat he resigned on the Upper Shore, former Republican Party State Chair Audrey Scott has become the surprise front runner. Two of the central committees in the four counties of District 36 have voted for her, dissing the campaigns of current Dels. Mike Smigiel and Steve Hershey.

Scott won the vote by the Kent County Republican Central Committee on Wednesday night and she captured the support Tuesday of the GOP committee in Queen Anne’s County, where Hershey lives and Smigiel’s chief of staff chairs the committee.

UPDATE: In an email early this morning, the Kent County committee reported that they are now supporting Hershey.

Smigiel won the vote of the Cecil County Republican Central Committee where he lives. The vote was 8-1 Wednesday night.

Politics is a contact sport

“A majority of QAC committee members had pledged me their support,” Smigiel said. “But it’s the nature of politics, it’s a contact sport.”

Scott, 77, is an unusual choice. Born and raised in Boston with the accent to prove it, Scott started her political career as the first woman mayor of Bowie, Maryland in the 1970s, and later served two terms on the Prince George’s County Council. She was secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning under Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

At a bill signing in May, back row, Dels. Mike Smigiel, Stephen Hershey and Jay Jacobs, with Gov. Martin O'Malley in front left with Speaker Michael Busch.

At a bill signing in May, back row, Dels. Mike Smigiel, Stephen Hershey and Jay Jacobs, with Gov. Martin O’Malley in front left with Speaker Michael Busch. (Governor’s Press Office)

Scott has lived in Queen Anne’s County only five years and she was vacationing in Alaska this week, as the delegates and others in the 14-person race campaigned feverishly among the 32 Republicans on the four central committees.

Caroline up in the air

Caroline is likely to go with Smigiel now that Kent has gone for Scott, said a source close to the Caroline Republican Central Committee. This would create a tie among the counties and give Gov. Martin O’Malley the option to select one of the two candidates, presumably not the cantankerous Smigiel, a thorn in the side of the Democratic leadership at the State House.

But another Caroline County source said the committee there might go for Del. Steve Hershey, or anyone other than Smigiel because he hadn’t shown the county much love until recently. Caroline stands to lose any chance of getting a Caroline native in the House if a sitting delegate from District 36 is not elevated to the Senate.

Smigiel has offered constitutional amendments in the past to guarantee representation for Caroline. Caroline has been without a resident delegate since 1994.

“A vacant seat must be created in the House if Caroline wants a shot at a seat in Annapolis,” said a source.

A source close to U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, who represents the area, said he is remaining neutral in the nomination process but other sources say Chris Meekins, Harris’ deputy chief of staff, has been exerting influence on the central committees all week.