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Race for delegate seat is rematch

October 26, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - In their second election contest in eight years, John P. Donoghue and Paul Muldowney differently interpret central issues, such as health care, medical malpractice and crime.

Donoghue, a Democrat, is seeking his fifth four-year term in Maryland House of Delegates Subdistrict 2C, which roughly matches the city of Hagerstown's boundaries.

Delegates serve four-year terms. The annual salary is $43,500.

The general election is Nov. 7.

Donoghue named as important campaign issues: keeping children safe from sexual predators on the Internet, college tuition costs, health care and crime.

He said an issue some local voters talk about - the effect of deregulation on electricity rates - actually doesn't affect them now.

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Muldowney named taxes as a top concern, then crime and health care.

As a Democrat, Muldowney represented Washington County as a delegate from 1979 to 1986. Trying for a third term, he lost a Democratic primary.

Donoghue beat Muldowney in a Democratic primary in 1998. Two years later, Muldowney became a Republican.

Donoghue, 49, of Hagerstown, is married and has four children. He is a financial advisor with Smith Barney in Hagerstown.

Muldowney, 71, of Hagerstown, is married and has seven children. He owned and operated Supreme Concrete Block Inc. in Hagerstown before selling it.

He called Donoghue a poor delegate. As one example, he singled out Donoghue - among the county's representatives - for not changing a prison parolee release practice.

The state drops some prison parolees at a bus station outside Hagerstown and gives them money to return to their home counties. Observers say parolees sometimes stay and commit crimes here.

"I call it a blight ...," Muldowney said. "You can look at people - look at them sitting on a front porch. People not making a contribution to the city of Hagerstown. People coming out of the institutions and going back into a life of crime."

Donoghue, however, said Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich could alter the policy, but won't.

Donoghue noted that Muldowney was a delegate when part of the local prison complex was built and could have fought for a better policy.

In a Democratically controlled legislature, Donoghue is Washington County's only Democrat. "When our bond bills are in trouble, it's me that people come to," he said.

Donoghue, the chief deputy majority whip, said his rapport with other leaders has helped the county, such as when the hospital nearly lost its status as a trauma center.

Muldowney and Donoghue are at odds over solving the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance.

Donoghue supported a 2 percent tax on HMOs to offset insurance premium increases. HMOs shouldn't be exempt from a tax other insurance companies pay, he said.

He said he supported deeper reform in a bill that passed the House but was significantly altered in the Senate.

Calling Donoghue's HMO vote "unforgivable," Muldowney favors a nonmonetary approach, such as requiring expert witnesses in trials. Caps exist on settlements and "are not an issue," he said.

Referring to the HMO tax, the Republican House Slate Committee mailed a flier saying: "Delegate John Donoghue raised healthcare costs by $423 million." Donoghue called it "nasty" and "pit-bull politics."

The candidates agree on legalizing slots, but clash on the state forcing Wal-Mart to give employees better health-care coverage. Donoghue voted for the bill. Muldowney opposes it.

Muldowney proposed easing property taxes by freezing assessments. Market values would apply when homes are sold. The state might use cost-of-living increases for other homes.

For more affordable health care, he suggested cutting insurance mandates and letting businesses get better rates by forming associations.

Donoghue discussed what he sees as main campaign issues - college tuition, sexual predators, crime - in terms of both what the state has done and what it should do.

University System of Maryland tuition has risen, but shouldn't have, he said.

Donoghue encouraged the public to check a state Web site to see if sex offenders live near them.

He noted that he cosponsored a bill making it a felony to harm a police officer.

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