Fiery fo­rum for 1st Dis­trict

Times-Record - - FRONT PAGE - By KAYLA RI­VAS kri­vas@star­dem.com Post Wash­ing­ton @Kay­la_S­tarDem

EAS­TON — The League of Women Vot­ers held a can­di­dates fo­rum on Sun­day af­ter­noon, Oct. 22, for Mary­land’s 1st Con­gres­sional Dis­trict U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the Eas­ton branch of the Tal­bot County Free Li­brar y.

Be­fore about 200 peo­ple, in­cum­bent Repub­li­can Andy Har­ris, Democrat Jesse Colvin, and Lib­er­tar­ian Jenica Martin re­sponded to ques­tions re­gard­ing health care, the en­vi­ron­ment, and gun safety, among sev­eral au­di­ence-crafted ques­tions.

EAS­TON — The League of Women Vot­ers held a can­di­dates fo­rum on Sun­day af­ter­noon, Oct. 22, for Mary­land’s 1st Con­gres­sional Dis­trict U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the Eas­ton branch of the Tal­bot County Free Li­brary.

Be­fore about 200 peo­ple, in­cum­bent Repub­li­can Andy Har­ris, Democrat Jesse Colvin, and Lib­er­tar­ian Jenica Martin re­sponded to ques­tions re­gard­ing health care, the en­vi­ron­ment, and gun safety, among sev­eral au­di­ence-crafted ques­tions.

De­spite Mod­er­a­tor Pam Or­tiz’s many re­minders to di­rect com­ments to­ward the au­di­ence, not at each other, and that the event was a fo­rum, not a de­bate, Har­ris and Colvin ridiculed and in­sti­gated one an­other through­out.

Martin did not en­gage in the back and forth.

Colvin opened by say­ing Congress is bro­ken be­cause of special in­ter­ests and ca­reer politi­cians. As a fourth­gen­er­a­tion Mary­lan­der and Army Ranger, Colvin joins vet­er­ans across the coun­try who are run­ning to bring a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­er­ship.

“We have an in­cum­bent, a skilled doc­tor turned ca­reer politi­cian,” Colvin said. “Un­der his watch, the opi­oids epi­demic has spi­raled out of con­trol, mean­while he is tak­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars from the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try.”

Har­ris ad­vised Colvin to fire his fact-checker, and sug­gested the au­di­ence turn to opense­crets.org.

“Look up if it’s hun­dreds of thou­sands,” Har­ris said. “It’s just not true.”

Ac­cord­ing to OpenSe­crets. org, to­tal PAC money across all sec­tors for Rep. Andy Har­ris for 2017-2018 was $439,373; $173,400 stemmed from the health sec­tor, while $43,000 came specif­i­cally from the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals/ health prod­ucts sec­tor. From 2007 to 2018, Har­ris has col­lected $108,250 in dona­tions from the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals/ health prod­ucts sec­tor.

Opense­crets.org is de­rived from the Cen­ter for Re­spon­sive Pol­i­tics, a “non­par­ti­san, in­de­pen­dent and non­profit ... re­search group track­ing money in U.S. pol­i­tics and its ef­fect on elec­tions and pub­lic pol­icy,” as listed on its web­site.

“When I ran eight years ago, I promised to work for more jobs and lower taxes, and to pre­serve your rights and free­doms,” he said. “And that’s ex­actly what I’ve de­liv­ered.”

Har­ris said he has lived in the dis­trict for over 30 years and worked in Eas­ton at the hospi­tal for nine years.

“I’m not a new­comer to the dis­trict,” he said. “My homestead ex­emp­tion is ac­tu­ally on my house here.” Ac­cord­ing to a

ar­ti­cle, Bal­ti­more County GOP Chair­man Al­fred Men­del­sohn re­cently filed an ethics com­plaint against Colvin, ac­cus­ing him of “wrong­fully claim­ing a tax de­duc­tion on a D.C. ren­tal prop­erty his wife owns and fail­ing to re­port in­come from it.”

The Demo­cratic can­di­date’s spokesper­son, Sam Schnei­der, saw the com­plaint as a po­lit­i­cal tac­tic, and an at­tempted dis­trac­tion from the is­sues at hand.

Speak­ing to health care, Martin sup­ports a full re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act, call­ing it a “re-dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth.”

Be­fore elab­o­rat­ing on his own stance, Har­ris dis­puted Colvin’s claim that he voted to re­peal Oba­macare 70 times, and that there was in fact a re­place­ment plan (H.R. 1628).

“The peo­ple in this dis­trict need af­ford­able poli­cies,” Har­ris said. “The bot­tom line is, the Af­ford­able Care Act failed to de­liver af­ford­able poli­cies un­less you re­ceive a sub­sidy.”

Har­ris said the an­swer is to ex­pand risk pools. “That’s what the Amer­i­can Health Care Act did, that’s what Gov. Ho­gan did with the leg­is­la­tion, it’s called the re-in­sur­ance method.”

Colvin struck back in say­ing Har­ris voted against screen­ings for colon cancer, and also against chlamy­dia screen­ings for preg­nant women.

Speak­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment, Har­ris said he dis­agrees with Pres­i­dent Trump when it comes to fund­ing the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram.

“In his first year, (Trump) ze­roed out the pro­gram in the bud­get,” Har­ris said. “The sec­ond year, he cut it by nearly 80 per­cent. I fought to keep that fund­ing in.”

“I don’t think Dr. Har­ris gets that the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay is our crown jewel,” Colvin said. “It makes our cul­ture and dis­trict unique.”

The Demo­cratic can­di­date said if elected, he aims to reach 10 bil­lion oys­ters in the Bay by 2025. “We need a rep­re­sen­ta­tive who will fight for our crown jewel,” he said.

Shar­ing her views on ad­dress­ing the cur­rent level of gun vi­o­lence in Amer­ica, Martin said we need to in­still fam­ily val­ues in our youth.

“Do we have a prob­lem in this coun­try?” she asked. “Yes. But it’s not the cause of an inan­i­mate ob­ject ... we need to wake up. Bul­ly­ing is not new, dis­grun­tled em­ploy­ees are not new.”

Martin said she be­lieves gun leg­is­la­tion does negate cit­i­zens’ con­sti­tu­tional rights.

“My op­po­nent wants to ban the most widely owned ri­fle on the Shore,” Har­ris said. “He got an F rat­ing from the NRA, but you don’t see that on his ad­ver­tise­ments!”

Har­ris proudly sup­ports the Sec­ond Amend­ment.

“My par­ents came from coun­tries where you couldn’t own a firearm. We should never al­low that to hap­pen here,” he said.

“The so­lu­tion is not new gun laws,” Har­ris said. “We should en­force the laws we al­ready have in place.”

Dur­ing the de­bate, the au­di­ence re­acted most strongly to a re­mark made by Har­ris when he said, “The pres­i­dent does not at­tack free­dom of the press. The pres­i­dent at­tacks me­dia bias.” The crowd hissed, moaned and groaned.

“If you don’t think the me­dia is bi­ased, you live in a par­al­lel uni­verse,” Har­ris said.

The other in­stance that evoked a strong re­ac­tion from the au­di­ence was when Colvin said, “Dr. Har­ris, I don’t think you know where we are right now. We are on the Eastern Shore of Mary­land. We are in Colvin coun­try,” to which the au­di­ence was cheer­ing and whistling.

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