Personalities and political ideologies collided as Congressional candidates answered questions about the economy, energy, transportation and other topics last week at the League of Women Voters forum.
The most calm of the discussions came from the District 2 candidates. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Cockeysville Democrat who faces no primary competition, gave an introduction and then left the Republican candidates to answer the questions.
Nancy Jacobs, a state senator from Harford County, Larry Smith, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Andy Harris from Baltimore County and Jessup resident Ray Bly, who has unsuccessfully ran for Congress before, were on hand for the March 8 forum.
The candidates seemed to agree on many things — that the government over regulates business and plays too much of a role in education.
However, they all had different issues they emphasized. Jacobs focused on the nation's debt.
"I will work tirelessly to reign in this out of control spending," she said.
Smith, an Amry Lt. Col., discussed the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and embrace North American energy sources.
"Energy is our No. 1 puzzle as we go ahead," he said.
Bly shared his idea for reigniting the economy: "Do away with all the regulations." He said anyone should be able to build a business as long as they don't pollute the earth.
Three other Republicans in the District 2 race did not attend the forum.
Full house for District 3
All six candidates — incumbent John Sarbanes, a Towson Democrat, and his Democratic challenger David Lockwood, of Silver Spring, as well as Republicans Draper Phelps, of Annapolis, and Armand Girard, Thomas "Pinkston" Harris and Eric Delano Knowles, all of Baltimore — showed up for the District 3 forum.
During a discussion of the relationship between the federal government and the private sector, Sarbanes said "fundamentally the government has a role of putting basic infrastructure in place for the nation."
Harris, who unsuccessfully tried to win Sarbanes' seat in 2008 and 2010, started his answer by saying: "If I hear that word infrastructure one more time from Congressman Sarbanes, I'm going to vomit."
The next question was about whether the federal government has a role in ensuring school facilities are conducive to learning.
"At the risk of causing a physical reaction on the part of Mr. Harris, let me mention infrastructure again," Sarbanes answered, explaining that the government's financial support of school construction is "an investment that makes sense."
Harris tried to be witty in delivering most of his answers. In expressing his belief that the government needs to stop funding research on climate change, he said: "Yes the earth is getting warmer, but so is Mars."
Regarding alternative energy, Harris said: "Unfortunately the president has a Don Quixote complex and is chasing wind mills."
Other candidates took different approaches.
Lockwood mentioned, but did not detail, his solution for reducing the country's deficit, something he noted several times should not be passed on to "our children and our grandchildren."
Phelps, during at least three of his opportunities to speak, emphasized his view that abortion should be outlawed, noting "it's an unborn baby and it's committing murder."
Knowles hit on the importance of protecting constitutional rights.
"We have a Congress and we have a president and even a judicial branch that don't seem to adhere to those rights anymore," he said.
Girard, meanwhile, did not hammer home a specific point. In closing, he said one the of reasons he is running for Congress is he wants to simplify the tax code. He said: "I don't mind paying taxes, but let's make it simple, make it clear."
District 7 talk gets heated
The District 7 forum got a little heated as Woodbine Republican Frank Mirabile, who won the 2010 GOP primary, but lost to incumbent Elijah Cummings in the general election, delivered his answers with a sense of passion and urgency, and at one point had to be warned not to talk out of turn.
"I represent the vast majority of small business owners across this nation that don't have a voice in Congress now," he said during his introduction. His voice was loud and clear throughout the remainder of the forum, in which he attacked Cummings' voting record and the president's policies.
Cummings' answers were that of a polished incumbent — never too critical of the current leadership but always noting more could be done. For example, in discussing the budget, the Baltimore Democrat said: "We do have to cut, but we have to cut carefully ... you've got to put money into things that will be innovative."
Also present were Cummings' Democratic challengers Charles Smith, of Baltimore, and Ty Glen Busch, of Columbia.
Throughout the forum, Smith took several hits on Wall Street, noting "Wall Street almost brought the world to its knees" and "I fear Wall Street more than I fear terrorists."
Busch did not answer most of the questions. In his introduction, he said: "I'm running for Congress because I basically want to see and ensure that there is no further damage (from) the Republican party and the Tea Party ... to democracy."