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Mikulski, Dougherty talk policy, politics at HCC

October 22, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- College students who heard U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and Democratic congressional candidate Jennifer Dougherty on Tuesday said they're concerned about gas prices, education costs and other rising expenses.

The senator and the candidate spoke at Hagerstown Community College's Learning Resource Center on Tuesday before about two dozen students.

After sharing some policy views and doing some politicking, Dougherty - who is trying to unseat Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett - and Mikulski heard from the audience.

Thomas Arens, a first-year student from Northern Virginia, posed a carefully written question about restoring confidence in the housing market.

Mikulski said she supports Sen. Barack Obama's plan to freeze mortgage foreclosures for 90 days. She also praised the Federal Housing Administration loan program.

Sophomore Matt Rhone, a sophomore from Chambersburg, Pa., asked if the U.S. can eliminate its foreign dependency on oil within five to 10 years.

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Mikulski said oil imports can be cut greatly, but probably not entirely, if the U.S. focuses on renewable forms of energy.

Dougherty said Western Maryland is a good place for a biofuels refinery.

Students also asked about financial aid, year-round public school and the effectiveness of the No Child Left Behind Act and federal economic stimulus checks.

HCC President Guy Altieri praised Mikulski as one of the top advocates for community colleges in the U.S. Senate.

Mikulski told the students she wants Dougherty in Congress as an ally. Dougherty, a former mayor of Frederick, Md., said she has worked well with Mikulski on other issues.

Dougherty and Libertarian Gary W. Hoover Sr. are challenging Bartlett, an eight-term incumbent, in the Nov. 4 election.

Arens said afterward that it was the first time he had seen a U.S. senator speak.

"I wanted to make sure I was prepared," he said, referring to the care and research he put into his question.

Nick Marcucci, a freshman business major from New Jersey who asked Mikulski if he'll be able to get and afford a loan when he transfers to another college, said the session opened his mind. He said he realized that Democrats, like Republicans, "can actually know what they're talking about."

"I like what I heard," Rhone said. "I think we definitely need to change. We cannot afford four more years of Bushism."

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