Kratovil, Harris begin maneuvering for campaign debates

Republican challenger wants joint appearances; incumbent favors multi-candidate forums

September 24, 2010|By Paul West, The Baltimore Sun

The somnolent campaign in Maryland's most competitive congressional race began showing signs of life Friday as Republican challenger Andy Harris and Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil started maneuvering over a possible series of debates.

Harris got things going by proposing joint appearances with Kratovil to "talk about fixing Americans' tax burden so we can get our economy moving again and start creating jobs." He also demanded that the congressman take down an ad that has been criticized as misleading voters about the Republican's position on taxes.

In response, Kratovil ignored the ad demand and countered by proposing three debates. They should be similar, he said, to forums held during the 2008 campaign in the 1st District, which takes in portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties, as well as the entire Eastern Shore.

The Democrat's campaign "assumed" that the debates would include Libertarian nominee Richard Davis of Hurlock, said manager Jessica Klonsky.

The addition of Davis would be significant. Two years ago, he received 8,873 votes, more than double Kratovil's victory margin. Many Republicans blame him for costing Harris the election, and any forums that give his candidacy prominence could be potentially harmful to Republican chances to recapture a seat the party held for most of the past 20 years.

A fourth candidate, independent Jack N. Wilson of Arnold, is also on the ballot. Wilson wasn't mentioned in Kratovil's response, and his campaign sidestepped a question about whether he, too, would be included.

In a letter and news release, Harris told Kratovil, "Instead of running false, negative advertising, I propose we do something productive." He offered a series of joint "town hall" meetings, starting with a session on the Lower Shore.

"The voters deserve more than a 30-second sound bite to understand where we each stand on taxes and these other issues," said Harris, a 12-year-veteran of the state Senate from Baltimore County. "Let's give them an opportunity to have their questions answered."

Kratovil countered with two debates on the Eastern Shore and one on the Western Shore, which is a Harris stronghold.

"In addition to discussing your tax plan, these debates will provide an opportunity to share our views on other key issues including the future of the Social Security program, the significant differences in our positions on protecting the Chesapeake Bay and your continued opposition to common sense efforts to rein in risky and abusive behavior by Wall Street," the freshman congressman wrote.

The two camps have not yet begun discussing arrangements, Kratovil's campaign manager said.

paul.west@baltsun.com

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