Thomas levels 'right wing' charge at rival Madden

October 25, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Attempting to shift the emphasis of the District 13 state Senate campaign from economic issues, Del. Virginia M. Thomas charged yesterday that Republican opponent Martin G. Madden follows a "religious right-wing establishment" agenda on social issues.

Calling herself the mainstream candidate, Ms. Thomas, a Democrat, said at a news conference that Delegate Madden's voting record on issues affecting children, women and the elderly "shows a blatant disregard for a vast majority of our citizens."

Mr. Madden said yesterday that he was offended by the religious right-wing characterization. His high marks on environmental issues and support of gun control legislation "certainly don't fall into the category she's suggesting," said Mr. Madden, who represents the Laurel and Elkridge areas.

"I've run a positive, issues-based campaign," he said. "Ginny Thomas has resorted to threatened lawsuits and distortion because she doesn't want to focus on her record on the environment and tax issues. That type of statement shows the desperation of her campaign."

Abortion-rights proponents, supporters of stronger domestic violence laws and advocates for the elderly joined Ms. Thomas at the Howard County Education Association office in Columbia to explain how she has supported their causes while Mr. Madden has voted against them.

Ms. Thomas, a three-term delegate who represents East Columbia, criticized Mr. Madden for being one of four delegates -- all Howard Republicans -- in the 147-member House to vote this year against a bill providing broader protections to victims of domestic violence.

"I mean, [Republican gubernatorial candidate] Ellen Sauerbrey voted for this bill. Madden is more right wing than Ellen Sauerbrey," Ms. Thomas said. "There was no rational reason for voting 'no,' other than [representing] the religious right-wing establishment. That explains a lot of his votes."

Mr. Madden said he has supported "every attempt" to strengthen domestic violence laws addressing physical and sexual abuse. But he said he objected to an amendment in this year's bill that included "suspected mental injury" and eliminated an exemption for religious groups that believe in faith healing rather than medical treatment.

Ms. Thomas also emphasized Mr. Madden's votes against abortion rights, including a 1991 bill protecting a woman's right to choose and this year's vote on a welfare reform amendment that would have expanded Medicaid funding for abortions for poorer women. Now, Medicaid funding is provided in cases of rape, incest and when the mother's life is in danger.

Ms. Thomas said Mr. Madden has been evasive recently about his position on abortion. Mr. Madden said his position has remained consistent: He supports the right to abortion only in extreme cases -- not for "birth control or sex selection" -- and opposes lifting restrictions on public funding for abortions.

Finally, Ms. Thomas criticized Mr. Madden for voting against the 1993 Health Care Decisions Act, which gives adults, especially the elderly, more power to decide their own fate in advance if they become terminally ill or if they are sustained by life support systems. The act, which passed 98 to 16, permits three methods for leaving health care instructions or designating an agent or a physician to make decisions.

"The coalition that lined up against that bill was the same that was against [the 1991 abortion rights bill]," said Wanda Hurt, a Columbia resident and member of a statewide health care advocacy coalition. "Some people are trying to tell us what's right and wrong in life. This pattern has to be stopped."

Mr. Madden said he objected to a provision that accepts a patient's oral statement to a physician witnessed by one other person, saying it is "too open to abuse.

"I vote for or against a bill taking into account its merits and detractions," Mr. Madden said. "I try not to follow the herd for the sake of following the herd."

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