House race is policy battle

At forum, 4 vying for 6th District cover Iraq, energy

Maryland Votes 2006

October 08, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

Although only one Republican and one Democrat earned their party's nomination in Maryland's sprawling 6th Congressional District, four candidates are sticking around for the race in the November election.

Seven-term Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett and his Democratic challenger Andrew Duck sparred over the war in Iraq, energy and health care policy with Robert E. Kozak, the Green party candidate, at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Westminster.

Joseph T. Krysztoforski, the late-filing challenger that Bartlett quashed in the GOP primary, attended the forum, as he is considering a write-in campaign by Nov. 1, the filing deadline for write-in candidates.

Walking into the Scott Center at Carroll Community College, Bartlett, 80, did not recognize Krysztoforski, who took only 21 percent of the GOP vote last month.

"And you're?" Bartlett said when Krysztoforski greeted him. "Oh, good. I didn't recognize you."

But he couldn't miss Duck, 43, an Iraq war veteran who, with his fellow veteran candidates, has garnered attention and support from political action committees like the "VoteVets" PAC (the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America).

At 6 feet tall, 220 pounds, Duck towered over the other candidates.

In the Democratic primary, he defeated Barry J.C. Kissin, a Frederick attorney and activist, with 59 percent of the vote.

Growing up in Middletown in Frederick County, Duck said everyone he knew was a Democrat. Now the political tides have changed.

"I joined the Army, was gone and came back 20 years later, and everyone is a Republican," said Duck, who lives in Brunswick.

Republicans stole the message of a balanced budget and a smaller government that stays out of your personal life from conservative Democrats, Duck said.

But with the biggest deficit in the country's history and government expansion, Duck said Republicans have betrayed those principles.

This race, like other Congressional races across the country, has focused on waning support for the war in Iraq and what future strategy will be most effective there.

Bartlett never served in the military, so Duck is trying to play his combat experience to his advantage.

At the forum last week, Duck questioned whether Bartlett evaded the draft during World War II. But at age 18, while at the Seventh Day Adventist Columbia Union College, Bartlett enrolled in a medic course but wasn't drafted, according to Lisa L. Wright, Bartlett's press secretary.

On Iraq, Kozak, 53, favors a more immediate troop withdrawal, but without an imposed deadline. An environmental scientist and founder of a Frederick bio-fuels company, Kozak said ending U.S. dependence on foreign oil will bring world peace.

"We export $1 billion a day for oil," Kozak said. "Most of that goes to people who don't like us."

Bartlett voted for the use of military force in Iraq but wished the U.S. had entered with a U.N. resolution. He has voted against creating a troop withdrawal date but said "it's clear if we weren't there, there would be far more than 100 killings a day, but a lot of the killings are because we are there."

Rather than stay the course in Iraq, Duck says "we must change course now." His platform includes bringing in European allies, closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and launching counter-insurgency and peace enforcement techniques he used with the military in Bosnia.

Though Bartlett generally follows the Bush administration line, supporting efforts such as the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program, he did vote no to the Military Commissions Act, when Congress moved to suspend habeas corpus recently.

Duck favors transferring terrorist suspects to federal prison, prosecuting them under U.S. law and holding "enemy combatants" in the country where they committed their crimes.

On energy policy, Bartlett frequently gives speeches on the challenges of peak oil production.

"I am probably the most consistent voice in Congress on energy issues," he said.

But Bartlett only defines the issue and doesn't propose concrete solutions, Kozak said.

Duck calls for foreign oil independence in 10 years and growing the alternative fuels industry in Western Maryland - a policy that's similar to President Bush's, Kozak said.

Both Duck and Kozak support universal health care, but the disagree on how to get there. Bartlett prefers more privatized health care, and voted for the Medicare Part D drug plan because it included health savings accounts, he said.

Though he has far less money than Bartlett, Duck has been a more visible presence this election season.

Bartlett skipped the preprimary 6th District debate and a recent Carroll County Republican Women's Club dinner, where he was scheduled to speak.

But with 14 years behind him, Bartlett hardly needs to campaign, said John N. Bambacus, a former GOP state senator from Western Maryland.

"This has obviously not been a good week for Republicans," conceded Bambacus, an adjunct political science professor at Frostburg State University. "But in spite of the scandals and the war, the economy and gas prices, I don't think it's gotten any traction here. I think Republicans are going to vote for Bartlett. There may be some fallout, but I think Duck's going to have a tough time."

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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