Senate race debates heat up as election approaches
— With the general election less than 50 days away, Maryland’s candidates for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat will debate the issues on multiple occasions as they inform voters on their platforms.
Republican Maryland Delegate Kathy Szeliga and Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen have debated once, and they have several more debates on the horizon. Their next debate — “The Politics Hour Radio Debate” — is set for Oct. 7 on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show.
Szeliga and Van Hollen are running to replace longtime Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who is retiring at the end of her current term, concluding 30 years in the Senate.
War of words Last week, Szeliga’s campaign accused Van Hollen of threatening to back out of a public debate on Oct. 30, referring to him as “Van Chicken” in a press release. Oct. 30’s debate is the Friendship Heights Village Center Candidate Forum in Chevy Chase.
“We’re running a positive campaign, and we’re focused on the issues,” Van Hollen said when asked for comment on Szeliga’s remark. “People want to hear about about skills and job training.”
He added that he’s looking forward to future debates. Endorsements and
contributions Szeliga has repeatedly criticized Van Hollen as a “career politician” who has been in office for 25 years.
“I have a record of fighting hard for working families,” Van Hollen said. “I’m proud to say I’ve been endorsed by iron workers and people who work hard for a living.”
According to Follow the Money, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks political donations, some of Van Hollen’s top campaign donors include the International Association of Firefighters ($35,000), the International Union of Operating Engineers ($35,000) and the American Federation of Teachers ($28,500).
He has received 9,509 donations in 2016, totaling $7.5 million, with an average of about $790 per donation.
Meanwhile, Szeliga has received 747 donations in 2016, totaling $726,164, with an average of $972 per donation.
Some of her top donors include the Associated Builders and Contractors ($10,000), the American Society of Anesthesiologists ($10,000) and the Value in Electing Women Political Action Committee ($10,000).
Szeliga has also received $5,000 from Citizens United, a conservative political action committee that received international attention for their involvement in a Supreme Court case regarding the legality of political donations from corporations. Economic growth,
education key Both Van Hollen and Szeliga emphasized the need to bring good-paying, middle class jobs back to Marylanders.
“It’s clear that they want someone who is going to be fighting for them for well paying jobs,” Van Hollen said, noting the Baltimore area was “hit hard” by the decline of steel and manufacturing. “Look, I am excited about the new possibilities. Tradepoint Atlantic is one opportunity, but we need to build on that.”
Szeliga echoed that sentiment, saying, “you drive by Sparrows Point now, and it’s a remnant.”
At its peak employment during World War II, Sparrows Point was the site of over 30,000 middle-class jobs. Faced with a revolving door of owners following the bankruptcy of Bethlehem Steel in 2001, the mill, by then owned by RG Steel, closed its doors for good in 2012. 2,000 jobs were lost.
For Szeliga, job creation is a big part of why she first ran for office.
“We need people in Washington who can roll up their sleeves and cut through regulation” to create jobs, Szeliga said.
Asked how she has worked in the House of Delegates to promote job growth, Szeliga said that Maryland has too much legislation on the books, and more would only hurt job growth.
Although she said that high schools and community colleges should build on programs that provide skills training for students, she said education decisions should be left to the state and local level.
From 2011 to 2012, she served on the education and economic development subcommittee in the House’s appropriations committee.
While Szeliga says the key to growth is lower taxes and less government regulation, Van Hollen says his aim is to provide tax incentives and grant funding to businesses and colleges that offer job training programs.
Van Hollen said that he would like to provide tax incentives to businesses who offer apprenticeships, and he would try to build on the programs offered at community colleges
“My focus on this election has been good paying jobs and providing job training oppor tunities” that provide a pathway to those jobs, he said, adding that community colleges “great assets.”
Van Hollen pointed to the Perkins Act as a way for federal government to incentivize high schools to provide skills building programs.
Congress recently passed an updated version of the Perkins Act, a federal program that is “designed to provide funding for high schools that are engaged in skills building and vocational skills building,” Van Hollen said. Environment, budget
discussed Szeliga said the key to economic growth is cutting regulation that hurts businesses, and she emphasized her role in repealing Maryland’s stormwater remediation fee — known as the rain tax — which generated funds for stormwater pollution cleanup.
Stormwater pollution, deemed the primary threat to the Chesapeake Bay’s health, has most notably harmed Baltimore-area rivers, which were given some of the worst health are grades in Maryland by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
“This has been an important and ongoing issue,” Van Hollen said on the health of Back River and Patapsco River. “It shows that we have got to get a handle on runoff as well as the issues in the treatment plant.”
When asked, Szeliga did not comment on the effect of stormwater pollution on the tributaries’ health.
She did, however, raise questions about the U.S.’s ballooning national debt and Van Hollen’s role in that. She said that each American citizen essentially owes $59,000 to the federal government.
Van Hollen has been the ranking member of the House of Representatives’ budget committee since 2010.
Asked for comment, he explained that he would like to close loopholes in the tax code that allow corporations to receive tax breaks, while sending jobs overseas. Ending those tax breaks and bringing jobs back to the U.S. would increase tax revenue for the government.
“It’s outrageous that we have a tax code that rewards corporations that move jobs overseas,” he said. “We’ve been trying for years to get rid of those tax breaks.”