Neuman, Schuh square off in Arundel executive debate

Anne Arundel's Republican county executive candidates Laura Neuman and Steve Schuh continued their primary fight during a debate in Severna Park on Wednesday.

Though they spent most of the going over familiar territory — who has a better record on taxes, who would be the best person to continue to move past the scandal of the previous county executive — the debate brought forth a new wrinkle when Neuman, the current county executive, alleged that one of the restaurants co-owned by Schuh allowed Hell's Angels members to "show their colors," despite a request from county police not to allow the practice.

Neuman didn't name the restaurant, but Anne Arundel County police spokesman Lt. T.J. Smith confirmed the incident involved a planned Hell's Angels event April 5 at the Greene Turtle in Gambrills.

Schuh, a two-term state delegate, said he didn't know about the incident. "We do not allow gang colors in our restaurants, and in circumstances where motorcycle groups come and visit, we always arrange … for extra security," he said.

Neuman also repeated an earlier accusation that Schuh called her mother — with whom she does not currently have a relationship — in an effort to dig up dirt. Schuh denied it, saying he never reached out to Neuman's mother. "People from your past have contacted me," he said.

Schuh also countered that Neuman has distributed negative campaign mailers and ads that distort his record.

Neither candidate backed down during the debate, and both repeated their key campaign issues and promoted their leadership styles. A few hundred people attended the debate, which was sponsored by several local chambers of commerce and held at Severna Park High School.

Neuman and Schuh battled over property taxes and stormwater fees, with Neuman criticizing Schuh for voting for the state bill that required counties to levy the stormwater fee and Schuh blaming Neuman for a property tax increase.

They also argued about Tessemae's All Natural, a salad dressing company founded by brothers from Annapolis. Neuman said she helped keep the company in Maryland, while Schuh said he supports a better climate for all businesses, not assistance for "politically favored" firms.

In a twist, debate moderator Dan Nataf of Anne Arundel Community College allowed the candidates to ask each other a question.

Schuh asked Neuman about the donations she's received from developers. Neuman said jokingly that Schuh would have accepted their checks, too, and said she has also received contributions from other business people and first-time donors. She countered that Schuh hired former employees of John R. Leopold — who resigned as county executive after being convicted of misconduct — for his campaign.

When it was Neuman's turn to ask a question, she challenged Schuh about a state bill he sponsored in 2008 that would have required individuals to buy health insurance. Schuh said the bill was modeled after former Gov. Mitt Romney's work in Massachusetts, and said he later decided it wasn't a good idea. "It was a legislative mistake on my part," he said.

The two also were asked to say something nice about the other. Neuman went first, praising Schuh for his community involvement, for being well-informed and for being an active lawmaker.

Schuh, perhaps a little surprised, responded, "That was very nice." He went on to praise Neuman for taking the reins of a county government that was mired in scandal last year, for working hard, overcoming challenges and for being a mother.

The winner of the June 24 Republican primary will face Democratic nominee George F. Johnson IV, a former county sheriff, in the general election.

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