Two of the candidates for Maryland’s redrawn 8th Congressional District riled the audience Monday night when they clashed over bipartisan compromise, reducing the national debt and improving disclosure of campaign contributions during a forum at Frederick Community College.
Organized by The Frederick News Post, WFMD and Frederick Community College, the forum attracted an audience of more than 300. In addition to U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen (D) and his Republican challenger Ken Timmerman, both of Kensington in the 8th District, the forum also hosted two candidates for the 6th Congressional District and the five candidates for the Frederick County Board of Education.
Although all the candidates were allowed to challenge one another on issues, the faceoff between Van Hollen and Timmerman provided the most heated exchange.
Timmerman, 53, did not hesitate to attack his opponent, questioning the incumbent’s professional experience and political record.
An investigative reporter, former war correspondent and an author, Timmerman criticized Van Hollen, 53, for being a career politician and asked him to describe “the real-life experience” that qualifies him for office.
Van Hollen, who has served in Congress since 2002, said he worked as a litigator for a law firm for 10 years.
“I came in contact with people who have important stories to tell,” Van Hollen said.
But Timmerman questioned if being a lawyer can be seen as real-life experience and compared it with his own experience as a war correspondent and human rights activist, which led him to interview the families of 9/11 victims.
Timmerman also told Van Hollen that he tends to change the subject when he does not like the facts.
But just minutes later, Timmerman failed to give a direct answer to one of Van Hollen’s questions, causing a member of the audience to yell out: “Just answer the question.”
The two candidates also offered different views on bipartisan compromise.
Van Hollen advocated bipartisan collaboration, a balanced approach to budgetary cuts and having the wealthy pay President Bill Clinton-era taxes as the way to stabilize the budget and move to economic recovery.
“If we are going to move forward as a country, we have to find a common ground,” he said.
Timmerman said there are many Democrats he would be willing to work with, but stressed there are some matters of principle for which he would not be open to compromise.
He said he would not raise taxes in a time of economic recession and would not support any further government expansion.
They also clashed on the Supreme Court’s decision on the Citizens United case, in which the high court ruled that the government cannot restrict independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
Timmerman said he supports the decision and does not mind having more money flow into the political process, as long as there is transparency.
But Van Hollen criticized the decision, saying it has “unleashed an incredible amount of money into the political process. Now it is not clear where the money comes from.”
Libertarian candidate Mark Grannis of Chevy Chase and Green Party candidate George Gluck of Rockville are also running for the seat, but Van Hollen and Timmerman were the only candidates invited to the forum.
The 8th District encompasses the majority of Frederick County with the exception of the areas around Brunswick and Frederick, as well as southern and eastern parts of Montgomery County and portions of Carroll County.
Although they held a more polite discussion, 6th District candidates U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) of Buckeystown and Democratic challenger John Delaney of Potomac had differing views on the best way to address the government’s budget deficit.
Delaney said he would support an approach that combines reducing spending and increasing tax revenues. He said that the capital gains tax is at 15 percent, a historic low, and could be increased as a way to stabilize the economy,
But Bartlett, a scientist and inventor who lives on a farm near Buckeystown, said he would not support a tax increase.
“It is not that we don’t raise enough revenues from taxes,” said Bartlett, 86, a 10-term incumbent. “Our government spends too much.”
Delaney, 49, an entrepreneur and former CEO of commercial lender CapitalSource who lives in Potomac, used his chance to question his opponent by asking him why he agreed to give away his vote by signing a pledge not to increase taxes.
But Bartlett defended his decision, saying he would have voted that way even without signing the pledge.
The two candidates also discussed the issue of immigration and agreed that the nation needs to change the way in which it deals with immigration.
Bartlett said the country needs comprehensive immigration reform and a better system for allowing businesses to check if employees are allowed to legally work in the United States.
Delaney advocated a three-prong approach to immigration reform, which would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and secure the nation’s borders. He also believes America should look at immigrants as a resource that can help us be competitive on the global stage.
“Half of the Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants,” Delaney said.
Libertarian candidate Nickolaus Mueller was not invited to the forum.
The 6th District includes the western part of Montgomery County, the southern part of Frederick County, and stretches across Washington, Allegany and Garrett Counties.