Don’t leave choice for Pipkin seat to Democratic governor, Republicans say

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By Dan Menefee and Len Lazarick

For MarylandReporter.com/Len@MarylandReporter.com

From left: Mike Smigiel, Martin O'Malley, Steve Hershey

In happier times: Del. Mike Smigiel, left, and Del. Steve Hershey, right, with Gov. Martin O’Malley, seated, at a May 2 bill signing. (By Jay Baker, Executive Office of the Governor)

The chair of Caroline Republican Central Committee is blaming the central committee in Queen Anne’s County for giving Gov. Martin O’Malley the power to choose the successor of Sen. E.J. Pipkin in District 36.

Del. Mike Smigiel, one of the two nominees, is asking the four county central committees to jointly interview him and Del. Steve Hershey to help break the tie and avoid leaving the choice to O’Malley.

“It is regretful that the members of the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee voted this evening to create a tie in this process and send the decision to Governor O’Malley,” said Caroline Republican Central Committee Chair Rob Willoughby in a statement late Tuesday. “Now, a decision that should have been made here in the 36th District will be made instead in Annapolis by a Democratic Governor.”

The vote makes it a 2-2 tie and O’Malley will pick the winner if none of the four counties in District 36 change their vote. Hershey won the votes of the Kent and Caroline central committees on Thursday and Friday — and Cecil went to Smigiel last Wednesday, as expected.

The Queen Anne’s Republican Central Committee voted late yesterday to nominate Smigiel after Audrey Scott, the former Republican State Party Chair, withdrew her name from consideration last week. Scott’s withdraw was prompted by reports that US Rep. Andy Harris, R-MD1, was exerting pressure on the committees to vote for Scott. Harris denied any involvement.

Smigiel asks for joint interview

In an email Tuesday night, Smigiel said, “I suggest that, for the good of the Party, we agree to bring the two nominees before the members of the four central committees to profess our qualifications and debate any issues the members of said honorable Central Committees should desire.”

“There is nothing to be served by allowing the Governor of the State to choose the next Republican Senator from the 36th District,” Smigiel continued. “This is an obligation of the various Central Committees and should only be done by them. The wounds opened in the process of narrowing the selection down to two must be healed so the Central Committees can once again begin the process soon of choosing who will be the person chosen to be nominated to  replace the Delegate ultimately, who becomes the Senator.”

O’Malley is supposed to receive the nomination by Sept. 10 to make his decision.

Related story: Smigiel, Hershey tied, but both question committee process