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Hecht, Mooney square off in spirited debate

October 31, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Sen. Alex X. Mooney condemned tax increases and the state's budget problems while his challenger, Del. Sue Hecht, accused him of putting rhetoric before results at a debate here Wednesday night.

Hecht, a Democrat, used the hour-long debate to hammer away at her Republican opponent for voting against programs for education, health care and transportation.

Each time, Mooney responded by saying he favors many of those programs but voted against the state's budget because it overspent the state's resources.

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Supporters of both candidates nearly filled the 400-seat auditorium at Frederick Community College, sitting on opposite sides of the aisle six days before the election.

Moderator Derek Shackelford of the Frederick County NAACP cautioned the candidates to stick to the issues and asked supporters to refrain from giving applause or making comments.

But at times the crowd ignored his plea. Hecht supporters, for example, laughed at Mooney when he referred to his opponent as "liberal Sue Hecht."

On nearly every question - whether the topic was education, transportation or health care - Mooney brought the argument back to the state's $1.7 billion budget deficit.

"All these wonderful-sounding programs are in jeopardy right now because of our budget deficit. She hasn't answered how she would pay," he said.

Hecht was careful not to use the word "tax," saying she favors raising cigarette "revenue" in order to pay for health care programs and discourage children from smoking.

Mooney attacked that argument by saying that cigarette revenues will be lost if people quit smoking.

"You can't have it both ways," he said. "Raising taxes isn't always the answer. Liberals like my opponent always think it's the answer. They always have, they always will."

Hecht said she would support slot machines at racetracks as long as the money is earmarked for education. Mooney said he opposes legalizing slot machines in Maryland.

On the issue of highway money for Frederick County, Hecht said she was the only Frederick County lawmaker to attend a recent state transportation planning meeting.

"This election is critical. You want somebody to roll up their sleeves and solve problems. My opponent doesn't even show up for work," she said.

Mooney criticized Hecht for refusing to take a stand in support of a Ten Commandments monument in Frederick's Memorial Park.

"I live by the Ten Commandments," Hecht said.

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