Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008

Congressional hopefuls focus on foreign policy

Support for war hard to find, even among GOP candidates

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Eight Democrats, three Republicans and a Green Party member fielded questions Sunday at a forum for congressional candidates on Iraq, Iran, national security and the role of the Congress in foreign policy.

Support for the Iraq war was hard to find, even among Republicans at the event, sponsored by PeaceAction Montgomery, with support from two local unions and religious and student peace groups.

‘‘Our founding fathers would be horrified at the condition of our nation right now,” said Jay Roberts of Silver Spring, a Republican running in District 8.

The domestic economy is being ruined by a huge debt, the use of mercenaries and ‘‘foreign adventurism,” Roberts said. The government should bring the troops home and be limited to its constitutional duties, he said.

Naval Academy graduate Robert Broadus, a ‘‘Ron Paul Republican” running in District 4, said neither Iraq nor Iran was a threat to the United States.

The war in Iraq is the result of a ‘‘series of irresponsible actions that was allowed in collusion with the Democrats in Congress — so I hold the Republicans and the Democrats responsible,” Broadus said.

Neither did Democrats spare incumbents on the issue, although their party holds both the District 8 and District 4 seats.

U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington attended, but U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Dist. 4) of Mitchellville did not.

Van Hollen, who has served in the House since 2003, said Congress needs to ‘‘undo the damage done by seven years of the disastrous Bush national security and foreign policy.”

He said he has been an outspoken opponent of Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq, which he said has created more extremists in that region, and said the United States needs to try more diplomacy with its enemies.

That said, Van Hollen’s presence at Democrat Deborah Vollmer’s left elbow did not stop her from going after the congressman for voting with 369 House members on the recent budget for billions in funding for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

‘‘Even Al Wynn voted ‘No,’” said Vollmer, who is running in District 8.

Democrat Donna F. Edwards, who has stepped up her efforts to unseat Wynn since getting just 2,725 fewer votes than he did in 2006, accused the incumbent of having a ‘‘peace day” conversion after supporting the war too long.

‘‘Al Wynn ... must be held accountable for one of the most dangerous, irresponsible positions in U.S. foreign policy,” said Edwards, a lawyer who ran the private Arca Foundation for seven years before leaving to campaign.

Two of the other four District 4 Democratic candidates at the forum, Michael Babula and George Mitchell, drew parallels between Edwards and Wynn, noting that she once worked on his campaign and that some of her support comes from the same companies, including energy and oil interests.

Green Party candidate and longtime peace activist Gordon Clark said the United States needs not only to end its occupation of Iraq but to stop ‘‘militarizing the region” by selling arms.

Other candidates participating in the forum were Democrat Lih Young, running in District 8, Democrats George McDermott and Jason Jennings, running in District 4, and Republican Peter James, also running in District 4.