There was one mention of the character issue.
But for the most part, 13 Broadneck High School students stuck to taxes and the economy yesterday as they debated the merits of presidential candidates George Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot before some 500 of their classmates.
Mr. Perot's plan to raise the gasoline tax, cut military spending, and re-regulate the savings and loans will encourage growth, Kurt Schickman told fellow students.
"Let's make 'Made in the U.S.A.' the global standard it used to be," he urged. "With Ross Perot as president nothing is impossible."
But Nathan Smarick, supporting Mr. Bush, argued that nothing is wrong with the economy.
"George Bush has a sound, proven economic plan," Nathan said. "I hope you can trust the character of an experienced leader."
And, Dimetrus Herold claimed that Mr. Clinton's economic plan would raise taxes on foreign companies doing business in the U.S. and reduce taxes on the middle class.
"We've been taxed enough," Dimetrus said. "We could use a break. We'd all like a future worth looking forward to."
Del. Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis, moderated the forum, in which students also debated the merits of congressional candidates Wayne Gilchrest and Tom McMillen.
The students, many of whom were dressed in red, white and blue, gave their speeches from an auditorium stage flanked by campaign signs for each candidate.
Del. John G. Gary, a Millersville Republican, and State Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, an Annapolis Democrat, gave the closing summations for their respective parties. But Kurt Schickman generated the most cheers when he told his classmates that Mr. Perot "represents something coming full circle."
Ross Perot "wants to return to a bipartisanship," Kurt said. "Ross Perot has helped the POWs, something Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush haven't been able to do. He can get this country back to the way it used to be."
Many of the students are not 18 yet and ineligible to vote next Tuesday. But they knew how they would vote if they could.
"I'd vote for Bush because I think he's gotten a bad rap," said James Tinsley who had argued in support of Mr. Gilchrest. "A lot of the campaign coverage about Bush has been very negative. There's not a specific bias, but [the press] has just focused on the bad."
Amy Anderson, who represented Mr. McMillen in the forum, said she would vote for Mr. Clinton.
"I'd vote Democratic, because the most important thing to me is education and I believe in Gov. Clinton's proposals."