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Shank, Munson spar in person -- but don't debate

September 08, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, left, and Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, show contrasting expressions during a campaign forum Wednesday sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

They didn't debate, but state Senate race opponents Donald F. Munson and Christopher B. Shank jabbed at each other at an election forum Wednesday, six days before voters choose a winner.

The Republican candidates -- competing for Munson's seat in Tuesday's primary -- laid out their differences on legislative style, supporting state budgets and term limits.

Munson, seeking a sixth four-year term, declared that he is "not in favor of illegal immigrants under any circumstances," but Shank raised questions about some of Munson's immigration votes.

Asked how they'd unite the Republican Party if they lost, Munson said, "I don't expect to lose."

Shank said he respects Munson's 36 years of legislative service and would "wholeheartedly" support Munson if he won.

There's no Democrat in the race, so the Republican primary winner will have a clear path to victory.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce forum was the only chance for voters to hear the candidates speak together in the weeks leading up to the primary.

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Shank has pushed for a debate, but Munson has refused.

In past years, the Chamber has sent questions to the candidates, then had them appear at a forum to answer the same questions.

This time, audience members wrote questions that were used during the forum. A few times, Munson and Shank were allowed to rebut each other's answers.

Munson said he has put his heart and soul into being a full-time senator and responding to thousands of requests from the public for help.

He described himself as a "pragmatic conservative," putting constituents' needs first.

Shank said he has a consistent conservative record on liberty, government, spending and taxes. His top priority, he said, is improving Maryland's reputation as a state in which to run a business.

Responding to a question about collaboration, Munson said Republicans have to work with the Democratic majority in Annapolis to be effective. He added, "I have never ever once sold my soul or have I ever sold out Washington County."

Shank said he stands firm on his principles and won't trade votes on bills that hurt his constituents.

Each candidate was asked to name what he'd be most excited to work on in the Senate.

Munson mentioned jobs for his constituents, low taxes and the continuation of the state's AAA bond rating.

Shank spoke about a good atmosphere for businesses to operate and repealing tax increases passed under Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Shank said he's working to get Republican Robert L. Ehrlich re-elected governor this year. Munson said he also supports Ehrlich, but can work with O'Malley.

Asked about term limits, Munson said he'll leave office when voters throw him out. Shank said he supports term limits and decided to serve no more than three terms as a delegate.

When Munson said illegal immigration is a federal issue, Shank replied that the state can and should crack down by tightening driver's license requirements or adopting a federal program that lets local officials enforce immigration laws.

"This is why I think we need a debate, by the way," Shank added.

In his closing remarks, Munson said he works on the state budget hundreds of hours each year in committee and votes for it so Washington County gets money it needs -- a veiled reference to Shank's anti-budget votes the last few years under O'Malley.

Later, in a phone interview, Shank said his no votes are a protest against rising spending and taxes. He said Munson voted against budgets when he was a state delegate.

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