Ehrlich, DeJuliis try to turn gibes into virtues Congressional candidates debate at Essex college; CAMPAIGN 1996


Second District Republican Congressman Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. told a lively debate crowd last night that he'll accept science's judgment on whether nicotine is addictive, but he's already convinced that so-called partial birth abortions are "not justifiable."

A smoker since age 13, his Democratic challenger Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis said she knows nicotine is a drug without waiting for scientific advice, but believes that only a physician should make "horrific" health decisions for women patients, not lawmakers.

Their first face-to-face debate of the general election campaign last night at Essex Community College produced alternating catcalls and cheers from the crowd of more than 200 people as freshman lawmaker Ehrlich and DeJuliis sought to use the questions as weapons against each other.

And both tried to turn each other's accusations into virtues.

For example, DeJuliis defended her heavy campaign contributions from organized labor political action committees, saying that "My money comes from the working families of this district."

Ehrlich defended his status as one of only 72 members of Congress who voted against raising the minimum wage as an act of principle that shows he's not one to take the expedient way out.

"You didn't send me there to make easy votes," he said.

DeJuliis is trying to use some of his votes, such as one to cut the growth of Medicare spending, to attract support from senior citizens in the district, which covers Harford County, northern and eastern Baltimore County and a small portion of northern Anne Arundel County.

Ehrlich ridiculed some of those charges, saying that even Democrats concede that Medicare spending cannot continue to increase at the rate of 10 percent a year. He said he voted for a 7 percent per year increase instead.

XTC Mostly, each candidate last night referred repeatedly to the basic themes set early in the contentious campaign.

Although she now lives in Glen Arm, DeJuliis stressed her roots in Dundalk and her interest in helping working-class families.

Much of her effort is aimed at eastern Baltimore County blue-collar Democrats, who have often voted for Republicans in recent elections. If she has any hope of winning, DeJuliis needs those voters to counter Republican strength in northern Baltimore County and in Harford and Anne Arundel counties.

Ehrlich talked about how the freshmen lawmakers are "really changing this country." The Republican Congress is providing "the building blocks of a philosophical revolution" by removing congressional privileges, strengthening Medicare and Social Security and again making individuals responsible for their actions and welfare.

He argued that much of the criticism aimed at him is "demagoguery" that tries to employ "class warfare buzzwords" and "platitudes" to obscure his record of "promises made, promises kept."

Pub Date: 9/17/96

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