The race for the 6th District congressional seat continued to simmer near the boiling point yesterday as the two candidates faced off at a breakfast sponsored by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.
Giving the first 15-minute opening statement, Democratic candidate Thomas Hattery did not mention his Republican opponent, focusing almost entirely on his plan for an economic ++ recovery.
The state delegate from Frederick County, who defeated incumbent Beverly B. Byron in the Democratic primary, called for an economic boost from increased spending on infrastructure projects, an upgrade of federal laboratories, and changes in tax laws to create accelerated depreciation allowances and capital gains tax breaks for those investing in job-producing projects.
"We can get a bigger bang for our buck," Mr. Hattery said of infrastructure spending. "Contracts are now coming in at about 15 percent below what they would have cost before this recession."
When Republican Roscoe Bartlett took the stage, he did mention his opponent, claiming that the race is one between his conservative philosophy and Mr. Hattery's liberal one.
"Liberals are people who I think honestly believe that they know better how to spend our money than we do," Mr. Bartlett said, calling his opponent a liberal who favors more government, more taxes and more regulations, even though Mr. Hattery had said the opposite in his remarks.
"They may say differently, but you have to look at their record," Mr. Bartlett said, blaming liberals in Annapolis for various ills plaguing the state, particularly high taxes.
The Republican candidate went on to propose his own economic plan, which calls for less regulation and lower taxes, including a cut in, and eventual elimination of, the capital gains tax.
Mr. Bartlett also claimed that in supporting the presidential line item veto and congressional term limitations, he differed with Mr. Hattery. "I'm 66 years old, so I have built-in term limitation," he said. "But I support them for others."
When Mr. Hattery got up to respond to the initial question from the audience, he said, "When Roscoe Bartlett ran against Mac Mathias [in 1980] he attacked him, when he ran against Beverly Byron [in 1982], he attacked her -- said she was way to the left, too liberal and so on.
"So I would ask that you take what he said with a grain of salt. The accusations he made here are totally false. It's just incredible. I wish we could stick to the issues, but it's obviously going to be very difficult."
In his closing remarks, Mr. Hattery launched his own blast. "Distortions are part of what has become tradition in campaigns, but outright untruths are totally inappropriate. He has a record of this now, accusing me of criminal activity, even after he has been proven totally wrong," he said, referring to charges of illegal legislative expense accounts that the state prosecutor dismissed last week.
"He lied to a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Hagerstown when asked about his service record, saying he was too young to serve in World War II when he was not, he had a deferment," Mr. Hattery said of his opponent.
Mr. Hattery claimed his positions had been misrepresented by Mr. Bartlett, explaining later that he supports the presidential line item veto with an override by a simple majority of Congress, and backs term limitations if an incumbent is allowed to run again after a term out of office.
After the debate, Mr. Bartlett defended his attacks. "The 6th District is very conservative," he said. "My opponent knows that he cannot win on the issues unless he presents himself as something he is not.
"We are just looking at his record. Now some might claim that he has seen the evil of his liberal ways and reformed. But people who believe that also believe in the tooth fairy."
The 6th District includes Western Maryland, Carroll County and parts of Howard County.