Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Congressional rivals of all stripes air it out

District 4 race is the area’s most watched campaign; forum focuses on both Democrats and Republicans

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Charles E. Shoemaker⁄The Gazette
Candidates for Congressional District 4 meet for questions at Riderwood Village in Silver Spring on Thursday: (from left) Democrat Michael Babula, Democrat Donna F. Edwards, Republican Peter James, Democrat Jason Jennings, moderator Carla Satinsky, Democrat George McDermott, Democrat George Mitchell, Republican Michael Moshe Starkman and Democrat Albert R. Wynn.
There were no fireworks, but plenty of shots were taken at the Democratic frontrunners — U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn of Mitchellville and challenger Donna F. Edwards of Fort Washington — at the League of Women Voters’ congressional candidates forum on Thursday at the Riderwood Village in Silver Spring.

The forum brought Democratic and Republican candidates together at the same table to answer written questions from the audience. About 200 people attended.

District 4 includes parts of the upcounty and eastern Montgomery County and portions of Prince George’s County.

The 90-minute format gave each of the eight candidates — five Democrats and three Republicans — little time to make their case.

‘‘There should have been a lot more on the issues that affect us,” commented Sol Goren, 91.

Goren entered undecided, but decided afterward that he liked Edwards best.

‘‘She was the only one I thought I’d vote for,” he said. ‘‘I thought the people would really be helped by her.”

Bill Boyer, 71, a Republican, said he plans to vote for Republican Michael Moshe Starkman, who lost to Wynn in the 2006 general election. In that race, Wynn, who narrowly defeated Edwards in the 2006 Democratic primary, won with 80 percent of the vote to Starkman’s 16 percent. The 4th Congressional District is dominated by Democrats, and the winner of the Feb. 12 primary is expected to win the general election in November.

But on the Iraq war, there was no debate among the eight candidates that the troops should be brought home as soon as possible.

While Wynn pointed out that he has voted five times to bring the troops home from Iraq in the past year, several candidates, including one of the Republicans, said he should never have voted to authorize the troops for Iraq in the first place.

‘‘It’s not good enough to vote for the war in Iraq and say later, ‘I didn’t get it right,’” Edwards said.

Bill Boyer, 71, a Republican, said he would vote for Starkman even though he disagreed with him on the Iraq war. Starkman, who opposes military intervention in Iran, said the troops should be brought home from Iraq.

‘‘I thought all of the Democratic candidates are very naïve,” Boyer said. ‘‘It’s the age-old thing that whatever is wrong in the world is America’s fault. I like Starkman because he’s more conservative. [Robert] Broadus and [Peter] James to me were way out in right field. I’m not a Ron Paul Republican by any means,” referring to two Republican candidates who identified themselves as supporters of maverick Republican presidential candidate.

But most of the attention seemed to be paid to Wynn and Edwards. While Edwards criticized Wynn for receiving campaign contributions from oil and gas companies and voting for an energy bill that gave them huge subsidies even as they post record profits, Democratic challenger George Mitchell criticized Wynn and Edwards as beholden to out-of-state contributors.

‘‘Come on, folks. Two-thirds of her [Edwards’] money comes from out of state, three-fourths of his ...who do you think they’re going to represent?” Mitchell asked. ‘‘Ninety-five percent of my contributions come from within the state.”

Democrats Michael Babula of Montgomery Village, Jason Jennings of Silver Spring and George McDermott of Forest Heights also tried to paint Edwards as a traditional candidate, arguing that they would bring change.

‘‘She calls herself an activist, but really she’s a lobbyist,” said Babula, who teaches economics at Loyola University.

Wynn has failed to provide leadership, Jennings said. ‘‘His greatest accomplishment is he’s been elected eight times,” he said. ‘‘There’s more to life than power and money.”

Wynn said he has worked on issues important to people, from making sure dental care is part of SCHIP health care program for uninsured children to working with residents who want earlier mail delivery times at Riderwood to trying to roll back the federal No Child Left Behind law because it has put too much emphasis on testing and not enough on learning.

His challengers are trying to create a false image of him by misrepresenting his stance on issues, Wynn said. ‘‘I want universal health care,” he said.

Wynn received support from an unusual corner, his Republican challenger in 2006.

‘‘I disagree with Wynn on a number of issues, but to tell me he sold out, I can’t agree with that,” Starkman said.

Edwards touted her experience as an attorney and community activist. ‘‘I talk every day with people in our congressional district who want someone who’ll have the integrity to lead us into the challenges of the 21 st century,” she said.

McDermott, who is campaigning to fight corruption in the judicial system, also focused much of his comments on problems with the courts. Republican Vincent Martorano of Jessup did not attend Thursday’s forum.

District 4candidates, Web sites

Democrats

Michael Babula:www.Babula2008.com

Donna F. Edwards: www.DonnaEdwardsforCongress.com

Jason Jennings: www.JasonJenningsforCongress.com

George McDermott: www.McDermottforCongress2008.com

George Mitchell: www.MitchellforCongress2008.com

Albert R. Wynn (incumbent): www.AlbertWynn.org

Republicans

Robert Broadus: www.LocalPolitics.Meetup.com⁄142

Peter James:www.PeterJames08.com

Michael Moshe Starkman: www.StarkmanforCongress.com