Se­nate race de­bates heat up as elec­tion ap­proaches

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By BRAD KRONER


— 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.”



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