It was more a sparring match than a boxing match. Neither candidate running for a seat in the 4th congressional district scored a knockout in Monday's debate, but each slipped in a few good jabs.
Both Democrat Representative Tom McMillen and his challenger, Republican Bob Duckworth, were able to fend off the others' advances. They called each other naive and charged one another with deceiving the voters. They answered questions on the budget, the Persian Gulf and problems within the savings and loan industry.
The debate at City Hall in Annapolis was sponsored by the Annapolis Jaycees.
Twice during the hour-long debate the candidates slipped into rhyme.
"I'd rather penalize a millionaire than penalize Medicare," said McMillen, referring to the budget package.
"If you vote for the incumbent," Duckworth said later, "you will vote for the PAC Man, not just the Tax Man."
The candidates set the tone during their opening remarks, Duckworth saying congressmen must be fired, McMillen saying he should not be held accountable for the actions of his colleagues.
"If we don't change Congress, nothing will change," said Duckworth.
"Congress is indeed out-of-touch with the people and out-of-control in the way it spends."
"You are not out against an institution," McMillen countered. "If you were, you would take a broad swipe at (the department of Housing and Urban Development), where my opponent worked for 20 years. Just as Mr. Duckworth is not responsible for everything that went on at HUD, I'm not responsible for everything that goes on in Congress."
McMillen said the budget package agreed to this past weekend is fair, makes the tough choices and was an "honest effort to reduce the deficit."
But Duckworth said there are no spending cuts in the budget package, calling it a "Trojan Horse -- a tax plan in disguise. (McMillen) is very naive when he talks about spending cuts. We know the seniors are going to get it, we know the taxpayers are going to get it."
Asked whether whistle-blowing could have averted charges of favoritism in contract bidding at HUD, Duckworth used the question to attack McMillen on the savings and loan crisis.
"McMillen ran from the banking committee, don't talk to me about HUD," he said.
McMillen left the House Banking Committee in February to join the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. Duckworth charged his opponent bailed out of S & L crisis because of the amount of PAC money McMillen receives from the banking industry.
"He deals in PAC contributions and votes accordingly," Duckworth said.
McMillen, however, says the committee didn't catch the crisis sooner because the Bush administration was trying to cover up the extent of the problem.
"It is difficult to perform oversight when members of the administration don't tell the truth," he said.
McMillen said he was pleased at having been able to turn empty bunk houses at Fort George G. Meade into a homeless shelter, now known as Sarah's House, calling the effort a rare match of money and federal resources.
Duckworth, who has been a volunteer at Sarah's House, said it is a good temporary shelter, but "we should get (the homeless) back on their feet.
Give them jobs. We don't need to warehouse them."
Both candidates said the U.S. should pursue a war against Iraq only with United Nations support and only after the sanctions have had time to work.
"We've given the president latitude," McMillen said, "but we shouldn't give the president a blank check on this issue."
Duckworth said he would have voted in support of President Bush's veto on the 1990 Civil Rights bill, because the "unintended quotas" would hurt small businesses. "I think we have an opportunity in the next Congress to make civil rights legislation and make it fair," he said.
McMillen said the bill, if passed, would not cause quotas and said the president opposed it "against the advice of his adviser."