E.J. Pipkin spent $2 million of his own money for the roughly 714,000 votes he received Tuesday in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
Added to what he raised from other donors, that's nearly $4 per vote, a steep price to pay for such a decisive loss. Mikulski, who defeated Pipkin, a Republican, with about 65 percent of the vote, outspent him 2 to 1 but got more for her dollar. A preliminary estimate from her campaign shows that she spent about $3 per vote.
By almost any measure, the race was Maryland's most expensive U.S. Senate contest, with the Mikulski campaign estimating that she spent more than $4 million and Pipkin placing his figure at about $2.7 million. Final campaign finance reports are due Nov. 22.
Pipkin, 48, a first-term state senator whose district covers parts of four counties on Maryland's Eastern Shore, said yesterday that he had no regrets and vowed to remain active in GOP politics. He did not rule out another run for the U.S. Senate in two years, when incumbent Democrat Paul Sarbanes, 71, is up for reelection.
"We have gone a long way talking about name identification and who I am, and talking about issues," he said in an interview at his campaign headquarters on Kent Island. "We will take a look at other opportunities. I am a Republican in the state of Maryland. You view opportunities as they come along."
John Kane, Maryland's GOP chairman, said he expected Pipkin to be a force in the state party, predicting that he would "come back in two years."
"He reminded us we are one big family in the Republican Party, and we need to make things happen together," Kane said.
While Mikulski garnered nearly 1.4 million votes Tuesday, Pipkin ran well in rural areas and counties such as Carroll, Cecil and Harford, which are rapidly becoming more suburban.
But support for Mikulski appeared to cross party lines. She defeated Pipkin in Caroline and Kent counties, which are part of his state senate district, and also beat him in several other counties where President Bush defeated Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic nominee.
"Despite . . . a pretty aggressive campaign on the part of Pipkin, Mikulski was able to survive in probably as good a shape as she has been in politically," said Keith Haller, a Bethesda-based political consultant who was not involved in the Senate campaign.
"She has a wonderful way to connect with Maryland voters. People don't see her in an ideological light but as a down-home, 'one of them' politicians," he said. "It underscores how difficult it is for Republicans to be competitive statewide in Maryland."
Pipkin, a former bond trader on Wall Street who came to prominence on the Eastern Shore in a successful fight to block dredging and dumping in the Chesapeake Bay, ran several TV ads this fall trying to deconstruct Mikulski's folksy image, using the tagline, "Who knew?" to suggest that she was really a left-leaning ideologue.
He also embraced Bush in a state that, despite electing a Republican governor two years ago, overwhelmingly backed the Democratic presidential ticket. During the campaign, Pipkin tried to portray himself as more pro-environment than Mikulski but otherwise ran a campaign based on a more traditional GOP platform that opposes taxes, abortion and gay rights.
Pipkin said he would not contemplate changing his political themes. "I am not a would-have, could-have, should-have guy," Pipkin said. "The biggest thing my parents taught me is that you put it all out there on the field, and you don't leave anything on the sidelines."