By Bethany Rodgers
10:17 PM EDT, October 22, 2012
U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., and his Democratic opponent John Delaney sparred Monday evening over the best way to heal the government deficit that they both said threatened the nation’s future.
Squaring off in a debate of 6th District candidates at Frederick Community College, the two men diverged over whether the country’s leaders should rely solely on budget cuts to achieve fiscal health.
While Bartlett, the 10-term Republican congressman in the 6th District, said he wouldn’t support any tax increases, Delaney argued that a “balanced approach” is necessary. The Democratic candidate said there’s an unprecedented amount of cash in banks and businesses and targeted the capital gains tax as one place that could yield more revenue.
Raising taxes would create a situation of diminishing returns, Bartlett argued.
“There’s no guarantee that if you raise the tax rate, you’re going to increase the revenue stream,” said the 86-year-old representative.
Delaney contended that an uncertain economy, not tax rates, are troubling those in business.
“There’s fiscal instability, so people are sitting on their money,” said Delaney, founder of a Chevy Chase-based commercial finance company, CapitalSource.
During the forum hosted by The Frederick News-Post and WFMD, both men answered questions from the debate moderator. They also had the opportunity to question one another.
Delaney charged Bartlett with willingness to “give your vote away” by signing a pledge not to increase taxes. Bartlett returned that he wasn’t compromising his beliefs.
“That is the way I would have voted. That’s the way I have voted,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett queried Delaney about whether he supports a worker’s right to cast a secret ballot about whether to join a labor union. When Delaney said he did, Bartlett responded that he was glad his Democratic opponent was breaking from his party on the issue.
“As I’ve said from the beginning, I’m independent-minded,” Delaney fired back.
The opening and closing statements offered an opening for the two candidates to take a more personal tone.
Delaney introduced himself as the son of blue-collar family who relied on scholarships to get the college education that launched him into a successful business career. He also described his reasons for running.
“I’m not doing it to represent special interests. I’m doing it to represent the common good of citizens of the 6th,” he said.
Bartlett talked about his Depression-era upbringing and his concerns for the kind of future his grandchildren and great-grandchildren would face.
“I was really appreciative of the opportunities this great country offered me,” he said. “I’ve been asking myself, are these opportunities going to be there for our kids?”
By and large, the two candidates kept the tone polite as they faced each other across the stage at Jack B. Kussmaul Theater. However, Bartlett opened the debate with a barbed comment about Delaney’s Potomac home address just outside of the 6th District.
“Thank you for stopping by the district you would like to represent,” Bartlett said.
The men fielded questions about immigration reform, with Delaney arguing that the nation’s leaders must create a “path to citizenship” but also secure the country’s borders.
The nation needs “an E-Verify system that works,” according to Bartlett. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to check and see whether their employees are authorized to work in the United States.
The men also responded to a question about the challenge of pushing through congressional logjams to secure transportation funding. Bartlett saying that House members have little power over how the state spends transportation dollars. Delaney said he believes some help could lie with private industry could offer some help.
“There’s more cash in our corporations than there’s ever been,” he said, adding that public-private partnerships could help finance road improvements.
The race in the 6th District pits Bartlett against a Democratic contender inside a district whose borders recently shifted to include more left-leaning Montgomery County voters. As he fights to keep the seat he’s held for 20 years, Bartlett has trailed Delaney in fundraising throughout the race.
The most recent numbers, released last week, show Delaney’s campaign has hauled in almost $1.8 million for this election cycle. Bartlett’s camp has garnered a little more than $1 million over the same period, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Bartlett and Delaney were the only candidates invited to the debate. However, Libertarian Nickolaus Mueller also has tossed his hat into the ring in the 6th.
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