Republicans hold just 43 seats in the 141-member House and 12 seats in the 47-member Senate. Kipke, who became minority leader in April, acknowledged the party will be challenged to make gains next year, given a recent round of redistricting that was controlled by Democrats.
“The last bout of redistricting has put us in a tough spot, but we’re up for it,” Kipke told about 400 GOP activists attending the annual Red, White and Blue Dinner in Baltimore. “We have been working over the past several weeks to develop a plan that we believe all Marylanders will support.”
His assessment was one of several pep talks delivered at the dinner, which featured Rep. Paul Ryan, last year’s Republican vice presidential candidate, as the guest speaker.
Ryan held up his home state of Wisconsin as a model for what could happen in Maryland, detailing GOP gains there in 2010, which included winning a U.S. Senate seat and the governorship.
“We did it a few years ago in Wisconsin,” Ryan said. “You are ripe for it right here in Maryland.”
Ryan also alluded to the difficulties that Maryland Republicans face competing in a state where Democrats hold a more than 2-to-1 advantage in party registration.
“Being a Republican in Maryland, you kind of feel like you’re a taxidermist at the PETA convention,” Ryan said, referring to the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The program also included brief remarks from two declared candidates for Maryland governor next year, Harford County Executive David R. Craig (R) and Del. Ronald A. George (R-Anne Arundel).
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael S. Steele, another potential gubernatorial candidate, was given the closing spot. Steele has said he plans to decide after Labor Day whether to run for governor.
“Our glass, ladies and gentlemen, is half full, not half empty,” he told the crowd at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. “Our day is not over. The dawn is just before us. We are are proud Maryland Republicans for a reason. ... We know at the end of the day, this state can and will be all that we hoped it ever would be.”