Democratic U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. accused Republican challenger Ken Timmerman of engaging in “gutter politics,” while Timmerman accused Van Hollen of distorting his record on abortion during a campaign event Sunday in Rockville that hosted two of the four candidates vying for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.
Van Hollen blasted a Timmerman newsletter as “garbage” that was “filled with lies and distortions” on his record, including insufficient support for Israel and Iranians who are protesting Iran’s government.
“I’ve never seen such gutter politics in our community,” Van Hollen said.
Timmerman said Van Hollen had focused on facts other than those in the newsletter, but he stood by the claims in the publication.
“The facts are precise as I have laid them out in the newsletter,” Timmerman (R) said.
The two men, who both live in Kensington, addressed about 140 people at the B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville. Each candidate spoke separately and then took questions submitted by the audience.
Two other men are vying for the 8th District seat, including Libertarian Mark Grannis of Chevy Chase and Green Party candidate George Gluck of Rockville. They were not invited to the event, they said.
Van Hollen said the race was as negative as any he’s been involved in during his time in politics, both in Congress and previously during his time in Maryland’s General Assembly.
In every race, he’s always had vigorous disagreements with his opponents, but they’ve always had respectful debate, he said.
Timmerman said Van Hollen had distorted his record on abortion, telling the audience that Timmerman opposes abortion including cases of rape or incest.
Timmerman objected during Van Hollen’s presentation, causing Van Hollen to chide him for interrupting him. The congressman cited a recent story in The Gazette of Politics and Business as the source of his claim.
The story has since been corrected to reflect Timmerman’s views.
Afterward, Timmerman said that while he’s pro-life, he has never suggested doing away with exceptions for rape and incest and would not support that position.
Abortion is a moral and personal issue and shouldn’t be a political one, Timmerman said.
He did say he would vote to eliminate federal funding for abortion both in the U.S. and abroad.
Van Hollen and Timmerman are campaigning for the seat in Maryland’s redrawn 8th District, which includes parts of Montgomery, Frederick and Carroll counties.
The two candidates each spoke about their stances on a number of issues, including the economy, the federal deficit and President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Timmerman said his first vote in Congress would be to repeal the health care law, which he characterized as “big government gone wild.”
He promised to cut back on federal spending, proposing what he called the “penny plan,” a 1 percent decrease in overall federal spending every year for five years to help get the country’s budget deficit under control.
The country doesn’t have a revenue problem, Congress has a spending problem, he said.
“When government talks about revenue, they’re talking about your money,” Timmerman said.
He also said Congress should pass open fuel standards that would allow private companies to transform natural gas into methanol that could be used to power cars. The product could be sold alongside traditional gasoline, letting consumers make the choice and eliminating the need for foreign oil.
“I would like to see you have a choice at the pump between Saudi oil and Pennsylvania gas,” Timmerman said.
Van Hollen accused Timmerman of endorsing the agenda of the Tea Party movement, and said reducing the federal deficit requires balancing cuts in spending and raising additional revenue by asking the top tier of taxpayers to pay more.
He said he stands by the measures Obama and Congress took in 2009 to help the economy during the worst of the economic downturn, and said that the economy is improving but still has a long way to go.
He defended himself against Timmerman’s accusations of “appeasement” with Iran and not supporting Israel strongly enough.
Van Hollen said he believes strongly that there needs to be an unshakeable bond between the United States and Israel, and supports taking every step necessary to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.