Steele, Cardin appear in Annapolis -- but no debate

Campaign Day

October 21, 2006|By Michael Dresser and Andrew Green | Michael Dresser and Andrew Green,Sun Reporters

The Republican and Democratic contenders for U.S. Senate brought their widely contrasting styles to a joint appearance in Annapolis yesterday that was more a not-so-close encounter than a debate.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic nominee, sat on the podium at the Maryland Municipal League's fall gathering as Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele delivered a folksy and virtually controversy-free message to a roomful of local officials.

Taking little notice of Cardin, Steele promised the officials he would be their "partner at the federal level" - delivering money to their communities for sewage treatment, clean air, transportation and other projects.

"I will not be a stranger to you. I will not be someone you see only once in a while," Steele promised. "I'm going to be there for you."

For the second time this week, Steele left after finishing his remarks rather than sticking around to listen to his rival.

After the previous encounter before the Maryland Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday in Ocean City, Cardin complained that Steele was ducking any discussion of issues.

Yesterday, Cardin said he regretted that Steele and he could not "answer questions together." Then, he delivered an impassioned denunciation of the Bush administration for its budget priorities and of Steele for aligning with the president.

Cardin reeled off a list of issues on which he opposes the Bush administration - including Social Security privatization and the Iraq war - in contrast to Steele.

"I disagree with this administration on health care. Michael Steele agrees," Cardin said, citing deductible levels in the Bush administration's Medicare prescription drug benefit.

"Fifty-one thousand Marylanders will be going to the pharmacists' and will show the new Medicare prescription drug card, and the pharmacist will say, `That'll be $500,'" Cardin said, predicting that the burden of their care will end up on the shoulders of municipal government.

Cardin, who has been criticized by Steele for accepting pharmaceutical industry donations, said Americans should be paying about one-third of the current cost of prescription medication.

"Canadians should be coming to America for their prescription drugs," Cardin said.

In one of his campaign commercials this fall, Steele pointed to the lower prices north of the border, and said Americans ought to be able to import prescription drugs. "I support cheaper medicine from Canada," he said in the spot. It is one area where he differs from Bush.

The municipal league - made up of mayors, council members and other local officials from across the state - also heard pitches yesterday from the Democratic and Republican candidates for attorney general and comptroller.

Republican Scott Rolle and Democrat Douglas Gansler - the state's attorneys of Frederick and Montgomery counties, respectively - outlined plans for the attorney general's office that were noteworthy for their similarity. Both promised increased emphasis on environmental crimes and a crackdown on street gangs.

In the comptroller's race, Democratic Del. Peter Franchot reminded the municipal officials that, as a budget subcommittee chairman, he helped shake free $25.8 million in highway user fees that were being withheld by the Maryland Department of Transportation. Republican Anne M. McCarthy derided Franchot's claims of fiscal responsibility, labeling him "a very, very, very left-wing liberal."

The gubernatorial campaigns of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and his Democratic challenger, Mayor Martin O'Malley, were represented by their running mates, state Disabilities Secretary Kristen Cox and Del. Anthony G. Brown.

Ehrlich appearance

Ehrlich mixed politics and policy in his only public appearance of the day yesterday at the Riderwood Village retirement community in Silver Spring.

The appearance was technically not a campaign event, but he sprinkled some election talk in with questions and answers about his administration's policies for the aging and disabled.

The governor trumpeted his establishment of a Cabinet-level department of disabilities and said he has worked to create more opportunities for seniors and the disabled to live in the least-restrictive environment.

He spoke before a generally friendly crowd of more than 100 senior citizens. The developer of the complex, Mark Erickson, introduced Ehrlich, whom he referred to as a "tireless friend and supporter."

One of the dining rooms there already had a sandwich named after the governor.

We're going to win, so don't worry about it," Ehrlich said. "The question is: Is the state better off than it was four years ago? Obviously, we believe the answer is yes in many areas, and that's why we believe we're going to win."

Erickson Retirement Communities gave $15,000 to the Republican State Central Committee in 2003 and 2004, according to state election records, and donated $1,250 directly to an Ehrlich committee in 2003. The company also donated $8,000 to the Democratic State Central Committee in July.

Erickson executives have split individual donations between candidates from both parties, including Ehrlich and O'Malley.

Candidates today

Ehrlich: -- 11 a.m., Democrats for Ehrlich rally, 6723 Holabird Ave., Dundalk; 2:30 p.m., rally, 5001 Forbes Blvd., Lanham.

O'Malley: -- 7:30 a.m., Kickoff of Race for the Cure, Conway and Light streets; 9 a.m., Baltimore City/County cleanup, 3000 block of Mallview Road, Lakeland; 2 p.m., Maryland State Teachers Association, Ocean City.

Steele: -- No schedule announced.

Cardin: -- 9:30 a.m., state teachers event, Ocean City; 7:30 p.m., NARAL Pro-Choice America event, 603 Edmonston Drive, Rockville.

Sun reporter John Fritze contributed to this article.

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