BEL AIR -- Delegate Eileen M. Rehrmann and former Bel Air Mayor Geoffrey R. Close engaged in a spirited debate last night on both issues and campaign tactics in their battle to become the next Harford County executive.
In his opening statement in a packed County Council chamber, Mr. Close, the Republican contender, criticized Mrs. Rehrmann's recent media blitz, claiming that her television and radio commercials attacking his record were deliberately "misleading" voters about the issues and their respective records.
Mr. Close, 40, was particularly upset by Rehrmann commercials citing his $5,000 campaign contribution from the county Real
tors association political action committee -- an endorsement he said his opponent tried but failed to get because her policies were considered "anti-consumer."
"To defeat me," said Mr. Close, "my opponent has spent more money than any candidate in the history of this county. For those of us who were born in this county and lived here all of our lives, it is disgusting that our county government is now up for the highest bidder."
Mr. Close has raised about $43,000 -- about one-sixth of Mrs. Rehrmann's political war chest, a county record $225,000.
The former Bel Air mayor blasted his Democratic opponent, claiming that her own supporters backed projects that she is now attacking him for, such as the Bel Air parking garage.
"I trust the voters pay attention to the substance of this debate and not just our debating styles," said Mr. Close. "My opponent ran a bitter and divisive campaign in the primary and she's trying to do the same in the general election. Harford County deserves better."
Mrs. Rehrmann, 46, of Bel Air did not respond directly to Mr. Close's attack, which she later called "diatribe and political rhetoric."
Mrs. Rehrmann and her political advisers, however, said they had orchestrated a recent media blitz in response to ads by Mr. Close, which they claim were equally misleading about her record and stances on the issues.
"We decided he was building on his record and we wanted his record to be shown," said Mrs. Rehrmann.
9- Most of the hourlong televised debate was
spent on the issues, with Mrs. Rehrmann stressing the breadth of her experience both as a town commissioner and state delegate, while Mr. Close pointed to the experience he has earned in 15 years on the Bel Air Town Council and eight years as mayor.
The two candidates differed most sharply on growth, where Mrs. Rehrmann favored the use of impact fees in an overall package of growth control. Mr. Close argued that impact fees had proven ineffective in controlling growth.
Both Mrs. Rehrmann and Mr. Close emerged from the debate indicating that they were confident of victory in Tuesday's general election, where voters will elect either Harford's first female county executive or its first Republican.