Wagner, Middlebrooks debate on District 32 issues CAMPAIGN 1994

October 16, 1994

The two candidates for the District 32 state Senate seat were at the Sun newsroom in Pasadena on Oct. 9 to debate. Incumbent Democrat Michael J. Wagner and County Council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Republican who is leaving the council to challenge Mr. Wagner, were questioned by three Sun reporters for more than an hour. What follows is an edited transcript of that exchange.

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Mr. Wagner, should the state reform the welfare system? And do you favor proposals to limit the number of children in a single family that receives public assistance -- the so-called family cap?

Wagner: I voted for both of them. Why? Well, a lot of reasons. There's a lot of abuse in the welfare system. I think people are outraged that people keep having babies while they're collecting welfare and get rewarded by getting more money. You know, it's a big issue with people and we tried to address it last year and unfortunately we only got half of it passed and the governor vetoed that half.

Middlebrooks: I agree with Senator Wagner on this issue. I think we have to limit the number of children on welfare and I think we have to establish a family cap. It gets down to the basics of the budget. We're facing, according to the projections I've heard, up to a $800 million deficit in the next four years, potentially. The fastest growing segment of that budget is entitlements and mandatory programs. And you're going to have to deal with it. Now, in Anne Arundel County we developed the C-DAP program, and we're trying to pick up families before they go on welfare. In other words, we've identified 100 families right now that are potentially going to go on welfare, that lost their jobs. In cooperation with the federal government and the state government what we're doing is it's a business -- organizations such as the Rotary Club, churches -- a partnership. What we've done there is they're the mentors. In other words, they go to those families and they try to teach them employment skills, they try to find them jobs, they try to develop a plan of catching these people. And also more importantly, they deal with it before they actually have crisis in their lives.

Wagner: I'm on record.

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Mr. Middlebrooks, during the campaign you have promoted the idea of a two-term limit for state senators. Why?

Middlebrooks: I supported the two-term limit for County Council members when I was part of that council. I think eight years is enough for any elected officeholder. The governor goes by it, the county executive goes by it, the president of the United States goes by it. And I think the general segment of the public supports term limits. That bill passed with 70 percent of the votes in Anne Arundel County, roughly. And I think people want some change, they want some new ideas. Senator Wagner's been there 16 years and I think that's long enough. These offices should be to serve the people, not coronations or lifetime jobs for any one person. That's why I believe in term limits. I think it forces you to make decisions that are going to be to the best benefit of your constituents.

Wagner: We have term limits. They're called democratic elections. Everybody can register to vote and everybody votes every four years. And you come back with your report card and you bring it to the people and if your report card's good, they vote you back in. If not, you've got a term limit. And it's true, the president, the governor and the county executive have two-term limits. They're executive positions. You don't want someone to grab control over the United States government or grab control over the Maryland state government or grab control over the Anne Arundel County government. Well, the legislature is different. If we had term limits in Maryland right now in the legislature, that would mean [state Sen.] Jack Cade couldn't be there, [Senate President] Mike Miller couldn't be there, [state Sen.] Larry Levitan couldn't be there. There's just a number of good people. Even in your own editorial, your people talked about the great things that happened in the election with all these new faces. But then, on the other side, you said it's great for Baltimore City because we've got [senior senators] going down there in leadership positions and they're going to be able to bring home the bacon. Now what do we want? Fresh faces, or do we want leadership? I say in the legislature we want leadership.

Middlebrooks: This is one issue clearly the senator and I disagree on. I think 70 percent of Anne Arundel citizens voted for the County Council term limit. I think the feeling among the

public is the same for a state term limit. I believe while it's true, they come up with pork for their areas, there's other things, such as the ever-increasing size of state government, the potential deficit of $800 million. And I think people think eight years is enough. If you can't get it done in eight years, it's time to move on.

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