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Candidates talk at forum

October 24, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Six of nine candidates who attended a Maryland House of Delegates candidates forum Wednesday morning said they would support legalizing slot machines at racetracks to raise money for public education.

But the candidates qualified their support by saying the issue should be settled by voters through referendum. Host counties should be able to opt out, they said.

"I don't think politicians like us up here should decide that issue," said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany.

Taylor also said he believes the economy will improve enough that the state will be able to afford promised increases in state money for education. The first two years are being paid for through a 34-cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax.

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Taylor's opponent, Republican LeRoy Myers of Clear Spring, said education should be the state's top spending priority. He also suggested that the lottery could be expanded if the state needs to raise more money.

Their comments came at a breakfast forum sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce at the Clarion in Hagerstown.

About 80 people attended the forum.

Also supporting the idea of a slot machine referendum at the forum were Richard B. Weldon Jr., Republican candidate for District 3B; David Russo, Democratic candidate for District 2B; Del. Robert A. McKee, the Republican incumbent in District 2A; Del. John P. Donoghue, the Democratic incumbent in District 2C; and Robert E. Bruchey II, the Republican challenger in District 2C.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, the incumbent running in District 2B, said the Glendening administration has not given priority to K-12 education.

Peter E. Perini Sr., a Democrat running in District 2A, said the state needs to make sure that increases from the state are passed on to the local boards of education and not supplanted by the Washington County Commissioners.

The candidates also answered questions - which they were given in advance - about the state's looming budget deficit, transportation and health care.

Lisa Baugher, a Democratic who is running against Weldon in District 3B, did not attend Wednesday morning's forum due to a previous commitment, organizers said.

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