Congressional Hopefuls Launch Campaigns At Forum

Abortion, Health Care Among Issues Debated

November 13, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Contributing writer

Crunched together at a table scarcely large enough for five people Monday night, they quoted Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and the Bible.

On a cold, damp night, the candidates in the 1992 6th Districtcongressional race formally kicked off the campaign with a forum at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Frederick County.

Sitting shoulder to shoulder before about 150 people, the candidates -- three Republicans and two Democrats, including seven-term incumbent Beverly B. Byron -- offered their views on a wide variety of issues, including abortion, national health care, congressional integrity, housing aid and Israel.

Republican candidates Roscoe Bartlett,Mike Downey and Frank Nethken joined their Democratic counterparts Byron and nine-year state Sen. Thomas Hattery, Carroll, Frederick, Howard. A third Democratic hopeful, Don Allensworth of Hagerstown, Washington County, attended but did not take part because he announced hisintention to run after plans for the forum were complete.

The candidates fielded questions from a four-member panel from the college'sgovernment department and from the audience.

Candidates' views and comments ranged from the perplexing to the humorous. For example, when asked about national health care, Bartlett cautioned against a federally administered program.

"It would combine the efficiency of the post office, the costs of the Pentagon and the compassion of the IRS," he quipped, to laughter from the crowd.

By contrast, Nethken, a former mayor of Cumberland, left audience members scratching their heads when he said one reason he opposes abortion is it eliminates people who later are needed to work to provide Social Security taxes to pay their parents' pensions.

The candidates were courteous, with the only hint of a salvo coming from Hattery toward Byron when the participants were asked to list their top three campaign contributors.

After Byron estimated that individuals have comprised the bulk of her contributors, Hattery said the percentage of total money -- notnumber of contributors -- was the more telling measure, and noted that 60 percent of Byron's money comes from political action committees.

Hattery, 37, acknowledged that 25 percent of his contributions have come from PACs throughout his General Assembly career, but said he would gladly support banning such contributors.

All the candidates called national health care a front-burner issue for 1992 elections and beyond but had differing visions for such a program.

Likewise, they agreed the western portion of the 6th District often gets short shrift from Washington, but offered few concrete ideas on a remedy.

What follows are overviews of the candidates' positions offered Monday, in alphabetical order, beginning with Democrats:

* Byron -- The Frederick resident chairs the House Armed Services subcommitteeand opposes term limits, saying the turnover resulting from free elections is adequate. Byron supports a limit on PAC contributions and opposes a line-item veto for the president. She opposes abortion and says national health-care reform should be a spending priority.

* Hattery -- The Mount Airy resident and small-business owner opposes a line-item veto and called a health care his spending priority. The abortion-rights advocate said term limits should be studied.

* Bartlett -- The 65-year-old resident of Buckeystown, Frederick County, continually hammered at big government and said the national debt is "suffocating us." the retired physiologist opposes abortion and term limits, but called for campaign spending limits and a PAC contribution ban.

* Downey -- The cattle farmer and businessman from Thurmont, Frederick County, called for reform of the existing health-care system, saying a government program would put large numbers of health-care insurance workers out of jobs. Downey, 65, favors a line-item veto only if accompanied by a "super-override" with which congress could setaside the veto with a three-fifths vote. Education is his spending priority. He opposes abortion and favors term limits and a ban on PAC contributions.

* Nethken -- A fundamentalist Christian, he repeatedly called for the abolition of the debt-interest money system as theanswer to the nation's problems. He favors a line-item veto and saidthe national debt is his spending priority. He called for a nationalreferendum on term limits.

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