4th District candidates debate role of government

The two candidates for Congress from Maryland's new 4th District clashed over taxes, defense and the role of government in a televised debate last night.

In a mostly polite 30-minute discussion on Maryland Public Television, state Sen. Albert R. Wynn, a Democrat, faced off against Republican Michele Dyson, a political newcomer and the co-owner of a Silver Spring computer company.


The two are vying to represent a predominantly black district that includes portions of Prince George's and Montgomery counties. The state legislature created the district this year to comply with a federal law aimed at giving minorities a greater voice in Congress. Both candidates are black.

"I believe in a very active role for government," said Mr. Wynn, a 10-year veteran of the Maryland General Assembly from Landover.


He said he would work to cut defense spending by 30 percent over five years, cutting what he called unnecessary weapons such as the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the Star Wars missile-defense system and the Sea Wolf submarine.

The savings, he said, would be funneled into education and other social programs.

Ms. Dyson, 42, said she favors only a 15 percent reduction in military spending over five years, warning that massive cuts would throw "thousands and thousands" of people out of work, including some at defense installations in the district.

She also said that Mr. Wynn's proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy, which echoes that of Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton, would only slow down the economy.

"The tax system in this country doesn't make sense," she said. "We penalize people for creating wealth and making money that's going to be invested in this community."

Private business must do more to support education, she added. "The government doesn't have the money," she said.

Mr. Wynn is widely favored to win the race. As a longtime elected official, he enjoys higher name recognition in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.

The candidates differed sharply on the issue of health-care reform. Mr. Wynn, 41, said government should get more involved in providing health insurance, reducing the role of private insurance companies.


"The fundamental problem is you've got too many insurance companies involved in health care," Mr. Wynn said.

Ms. Dyson called his proposal "socialized medicine." Instead, she said, the government should work to reduce fraud and bureaucratic costs and use that money to help provide coverage for the uninsured.

Both candidates support abortion rights, a seven-day waiting period for the purchase of guns and tougher sentences for violent criminals.