Red Flag in Front of a Bull
Friends say politics was always in the back of Pipkin's mind, even as he grew wealthy on Wall Street in the boom years of the 1980s, where he traded so-called junk bonds. While they were often used as an instrument of debt to finance corporate takeovers, Pipkin says he sold only to insurance companies, pension managers and mutual funds.
Patrick Welsh, a former Baltimore County state senator who campaigned with Pipkin at his side 26 years ago, said public life clearly intrigued the young Roanoke College graduate. He had quit a Baltimore brokerage firm to help Welsh.
Sen. E.J. Pipkin's anti-tax theme is one of several basic messages he has tried to convey in his U.S. Senate race against Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski in Maryland.
(Marvin Joseph - The Washington Post)
Born: Nov. 1, 1956, Baltimore.
Education: BA, Roanoke College, 1978; MBA, University of Virginia, 1982.
Career: Bond trader on Wall Street; state senator (R-Queen Anne's).
Family: Married, three children.
Campaign theme: "I don't believe that we have a revenue problem in government. I think we have a spending and how we spend problem."
"He talked of his desire to go to Wall Street, and then he said, 'Maybe I would come back and go into politics.' That was the first inkling I had," Welsh said.
Pipkin put the notion on hold for almost 20 years, first at the University of Virginia's business school, which he says was a "boot camp" for the world that awaited him, then in New York, where he worked for brokerage firms such as Donaldson Lufkin and Jenrette, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.
Along the way, he was married, divorced and married again, starting a family with his wife Alisa, whom he met in New York. The couple has three children, including a 10-year-old daughter who is a championship figure skater.
He also became a Republican. Pipkin grew up in a Democratic household but said he left the party in 1992, when he attended the Democratic National Convention in New York. Although the nominee, Bill Clinton, was running on a centrist platform that rankled party liberals, Pipkin nonetheless decided that the Democrats had drifted too far to the left.
He left Wall Street in 1999 at age 42 and settled with his family into an 18-acre estate on Kent Island that he had bought originally as a weekend getaway.
Friends say he kept in touch with the old neighborhood, making frequent trips home to go to Orioles games in Baltimore and to visit his parents.
Just before he returned full time to Maryland, Pipkin had learned of a plan by Gov. Parris N. Glendening's administration to dump the spoils from dredging Baltimore's harbor into the Chesapeake Bay, not far from his bayfront home.
Pipkin organized and financed a campaign to stop the project. Welsh recalls one meeting when port officials belittled the citizen activists, saying they would fizzle out.
"That was like putting the red flag in front of the bull," Welsh said.
Three years later, the proposal was dead. Pipkin's efforts had helped to produce legislation that banned dumping in the bay.
And Pipkin had gained something else: credibility with environmental activists and a politically bankable name on the Eastern Shore.
'That's an F'
Pipkin won the fight, but he harbored resentment. His own state senator, Walter Baker, had voted against the open bay dumping bill.