Szeliga, Van Hollen dis­agree on Iran deal

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Yvonne Wenger ywenger@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/yvon­newenger

ROCKVILLE — Del. Kathy Szeliga and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, ap­pear­ing Sun­day at a Rockville syn­a­gogue, both pledged to sup­port Is­rael if elected to Mary­land’s open Se­nate seat.

But the can­di­dates dif­fered sharply on whether the Iran nu­clear deal was the best path to­ward sup­port­ing the United States’ chief ally in the Mid­dle East.

Van Hollen told the group of about 150 at B’Nai Is­rael that the agree­ment — signed last year to re­strict Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for lift­ing economic sanc­tions on the coun­try — was “in the in­ter­est of the na­tional se­cu­rity of the United States and Is­rael.”

“Iran is in a much more dif­fi­cult po­si­tion if they want to build a nu­clear weapon to­day,” the Mont­gomery County Demo­crat said. “If we de­tect cheat­ing, we have all of the op­tions on the ta­ble that we had be­fore.”

Szeliga, who rep­re­sents Bal­ti­more and Har­ford coun­ties in the House of Del­e­gates, said she “ab­so­lutely would have voted against” the con­tro­ver­sial deal if she had been in the Se­nate a year ago.

The Bal­ti­more County Repub­li­can pointed to two bal­lis­tic mis­siles test fired by Iran in March, each bear­ing the mes­sage “Is­rael must be wiped out” in He­brew.

“The ink was barely dry on this deal,” she said. “If any­one had a doubt as to what Iran’s plans are, they’re crys­tal-clear. Ne­go­ti­at­ing with Iran and be­liev­ing they will keep their word is naive at best.”

Szeliga and Van Hollen are run­ning for the Mary­land seat in the Se­nate left open by the re­tire­ment of Demo­crat Bar­bara A. Mikul­ski.

Szeliga — who has said the agree­ment was a lead­ing rea­son she en­tered the race — is one of sev­eral GOP can­di­dates across the coun­try who are crit­i­ciz­ing the deal dur­ing the con­gres­sional cam­paign and sug­gest­ing the Democrats who sup­ported it were dis­loyal to Is­rael.

Polling by Gallup this year has found that 30 per­cent of Amer­i­cans sup­port the deal and 57 per­cent do not.

The deal was ne­go­ti­ated by the United States, Bri­tain, China, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia and the Euro­pean Union. Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Benjamin Ne­tanyahu and the Amer­i­can Is­rael Pub­lic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, the largest pro-Is­rael lob­by­ing group in the United States, op­posed it.

Mikul­ski sup­ported the agree­ment. Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Demo­crat on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, op­posed it.

Van Hollen and Szeliga ap­peared sep­a­rately at B’Nai Is­rael; each spoke for 30 min­utes. They ad­dressed ques­tions sub- Repub­li­can Kathy Szeliga has said the Iran deal was one rea­son she en­tered the Se­nate race. mit­ted by the au­di­ence on a wide range of top­ics, in­clud­ing how to stim­u­late the econ­omy and nav­i­gate Wash­ing­ton grid­lock.

Van Hollen was asked if he would vote to over­ride Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s veto of leg­is­la­tion that could al­low fam­i­lies af­fected by the at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to sue the Saudi Ara­bian gov­ern­ment. He said he would, and drew ap­plause.

“If it can be demon­strated that mem­bers of the Saudi gov­ern­ment were com­plicit in the 9/11 at­tacks, then Amer­i­can cit­i­zens should be able to get re­course in court,” Van Hollen said.

As he left the stage, Van Hollen took a shot at Szeliga, warn­ing the au­di­ence to be wary of state­ments that “are just un­true” but can be made in fo­rums that don’t al­low Demo­crat Chris Van Hollen said the deal leaves Iran “in a much more dif­fi­cult po­si­tion.” for a back-and-forth be­tween can­di­dates.

Szeliga told the au­di­ence she would wel­come the chance to de­bate Van Hollen. The two have agreed to par­tic­i­pate in at least two broad­cast de­bates and a few fo­rums be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tion

Asked what her first ac­tion would be if elected, Szeliga said she would re­quest a seat on the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Veter­ans Af­fairs, and work to re­verse the “mounds and mounds of reg­u­la­tions passed over the last seven years” that she said tie the hands of small-busi­ness own­ers.

Green Party can­di­date Mar­garet Flow­ers, a physi­cian, also is run­ning for the Se­nate seat. She was not in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in Sun­day’s fo­rum.

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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