Debate draws jeers, cheers, no details

October 30, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Like fans at a sporting event, constituents booed and cheered their favorite congressional candidates at a political forum last night in Arnold that gave the politicians little room to present their platforms in detail.

The nine candidates vying for seats in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th districts fielded questions from a panel of students at Anne Arundel Community College.

The candidates were supposed to focus their answers on the findings of a survey conducted by the college that showed Anne Arundel residents were primarily concerned about the economy but they also addressed other issues.

A one-minute limit for responses and a ban on rebuttals prevented most of the candidates from giving detailed answers to questions. As a result, candidates were reduced to boiling down their stump speeches to one-liners, which seemed to blur the distinctions between them.

Participants were 1st District candidates Reps. Wayne Gilchrest and Tom McMillen; Republican Rep. Helen Delich Bentley and Democrat Michael C. Hickey Jr. in the 2nd; Republican William Bricker and Democratic incumbent Benjamin L. Cardin in the 3rd; and Republican Larry Hogan, incumbent Democrat Steny H. Hoyer and Independent William D. Johnston III in the 5th.

All of the candidates said the United States must remain a super

power, even while cutting defense spending. Each advocated creating jobs, reducing the federal deficit, supporting education and protecting the environment.

A question on abortion drew the most clear-cut responses. Mrs. Bentley was the only candidate who opposed it. Mr. Hogan said he supports states' rights to limit abortions, although he favors keeping abortions legal. All other candidates said they support abortion rights and will vote in favor of the Question 6 ballot referendum.

Some 650 people packed the auditorium at the Pascal Center for Performing Arts, with the overflow spilling into a downstairs cafeteria. Their loyalties seemed about equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. The loudest applause, as well as the loudest jeers, was generated by answers from the 1st District candidates, Mr. Gilchrest, a Republican, and Mr. McMillen, a Democrat. The two incumbents have been thrown together by redistricting.

Mr. McMillen tried to depict Mr. Gilchrest as an advocate of President Bush's policies of "trickle-down economics," which elicited loud boos from Mr. Gilchrest's supporters.

Mr. Gilchrest got in his own digs, saying Congress must put an end to pork-barrel politics. He said one way to reduce crime is to get rid of some politicians.

Other references to the presidential candidates also drew loud reaction from the crowd, such as when Mr. Hoyer criticized the president for vetoing a bill that would have raised taxes on the wealthy, and promised that the bill would pass under a Democratic administration headed by Bill Clinton.

Moderator Jane Ann Newins struggled to get the crowd under control as Clinton supporters cheered and Bush supporters booed.

In terms of organized support, Mrs. Bentley could claim an edge over the candidates. A bus load of her supporters came from the Dundalk area.

Mrs. Bentley, who is expected to win re-election, has been criticized for her support of Serbia in the war in Yugoslavia.

But to her supporters at last night's forum, the Serbian issue didn't matter.

One Edgemere man, who declined to give his name, said Mrs. Bentley had helped save his mother's house when she could not afford to pay the taxes. "I don't know what goes on in Congress, but that really means something," the man said.

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