ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who led Maryland’s strongly outnumbered Republicans in the Senate, announced Monday he is resigning to pursue a master’s degree in sports management at Southern Methodist University in Texas.
The Senate minority leader said in a telephone interview that his resignation will be effective next week, when he plans to enroll at the school in Dallas. Pipkin, whose district includes the Upper Eastern Shore, said he felt it was time to make a career change.
“It’s an interesting risk, but it’s time,” Pipkin said.
Pipkin has been a state senator since 2003. He has served as minority leader since 2011. In that role, he has been a steadfast and fluid debater for the GOP in the Senate, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 35-12.
In recent years, Pipkin has denounced what he described as a policy war on rural Maryland. Pipkin led the debate in the Senate against Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun control measure this year. He also was a regular critic of tax increases that have been approved during O’Malley’s tenure.
“I will carry with me both the bitter and the sweet memories of the past eleven years,” Pipkin wrote in a statement.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, wished him well.
“Senator Pipkin had a strong work ethic, was knowledgeable on the issues and served his constituents well,” Miller said.
Pipkin ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 2004. He also made an unsuccessful run for the GOP’s nomination for Maryland’s 1st congressional district in 2008.
In the Maryland Senate, Pipkin represents residents in Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. The Republican central committees for those counties will choose someone to replace him and forward the recommendation to O’Malley, who formally appoints a successor.
“I chose to resign now, rather than serve out my term, which ends in January 2015, in order to give the Republican who fills the 36th District Senate seat the advantage of serving the people until he or she runs for re-election,” Pipkin added.
Pipkin’s departure will add to significant changes Maryland’s political landscape will see after next year’s elections. Elections in 2014 will determine all of the 188 seats in the Legislature, as well as a new governor. O’Malley is term-limited.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)