12 congressional contenders meet for a final face-off

Incumbents, challengers debate war, taxes, health as they vie in 4 districts

October 28, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

The 12 candidates for four congressional seats representing much of the Baltimore metropolitan area debated the war in Iraq, taxes, health care and the state of the Chesapeake Bay last night in a final showdown before Election Day.

Most of the candidates, vying to represent Maryland's 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th congressional districts, stuck closely to party platforms in answering questions from the crowd of about 200 at Kneseth Israel Temple in Annapolis.

All four races feature incumbents with long political resumes and hefty fund-raising advantages, and most of the challengers are largely unknown in state political circles.

Democratic incumbent Benjamin L. Cardin is facing Republican Robert P. Duckworth - third-term clerk of the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court - and Green Party candidate Patsy Allen in the 3rd District, which includes much of northern Arundel, Annapolis, and parts of Baltimore City and Baltimore and Howard counties.

Cardin, seeking a 10th term, spoke of his work on bipartisan health care and retirement legislation, and his ability to "work across party lines" and secure money for his district.

Duckworth, a Crofton resident who is the only current officeholder among the challengers, talked mostly about keeping taxes low. "I'm a limited government kind of guy," he said.

Allen, a Towson resident and environmental engineer, said she worries that people "don't trust anyone who runs for office." She said she favors more federal spending on education and an increased minimum wage.

In the 1st District, Republican incumbent Wayne T. Gilchrest faces Democrat Kostas Alexakis, an Arnold resident and real estate investor. The district includes the Eastern Shore, Arnold and Severna Park, and parts of Baltimore and Harford counties.

Alexakis criticized Gilchrest's record on restoring the Chesapeake Bay and his vote against the No Child Left Behind Act.

"My opponent is a good man, but I believe he's out of touch with the environmental disaster that is the bay," said Alexakis. He said he would demand tougher enforcement against failing sewage plants, businesses and farms that pollute the bay.

Gilchrest, a former high school teacher who is seeking an eighth term and has generally earned high marks from environmental groups, said he has a "passion" for the bay. He defended his vote against No Child Left Behind, calling the act "a quintessential bureaucratic engine to take over testing and curriculum." He said local school boards would do a better job of determining uses for federal money.

Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger is seeking a second term in the 2nd District, which includes a sliver of northern Arundel, a large chunk of Baltimore County, and parts of Southeast Baltimore and Harford County. He faces Republican Jane Brooks and Green Keith Salkowski.

The incumbent said his background as Baltimore County executive makes him a strong advocate for federal funding of local law enforcement and of schools.

The federal government should crack down on immigration and maintain strong defense funding, said Brooks, a Dundalk resident who was an aide to Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. when the governor held the 2nd District seat.

"The border needs to have a wall they can't climb," she said of illegal immigrants.

Salkowski, a Towson filmmaker, said Democrats and Republicans are too beholden to wealthy contributors and touted his pledges not to accept donations from political action committees or donations more than $500.

Democrat Steny H. Hoyer is running for a 12th term in the 5th District, which includes southern Arundel, Southern Maryland and much of Prince George's County. Hoyer, the House Minority Whip, is challenged by Republican Bradley Jewitt, Constitution Party candidate Steve Krukar and Green Bob Auerbach.

Hoyer sharply criticized the Bush administration as "the most fiscally irresponsible ... in the history of this country."

He said he would push to balance the federal budget and improve homeland security by increasing funding to local police and fire departments.

Jewitt and Krukar called Hoyer an advocate of higher taxes.

Jewitt, a former Marine and former mayor of Berwyn Heights in Prince George's, said he would strive to be more accessible to constituents than Hoyer. He said Hoyer spends too much time on party matters.

Krukar said he would strive to remove government from daily life wherever possible.

Auerbach, a retiree and peace activist, said, "I'm for pulling out all the troops in Iraq at once."

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