Donoghue says no to debate with Meinelschmidt

September 20, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington

Another incumbent has turned down a challenger wanting to debate, this time in the Subdistrict 2C state delegate race.

Democrat John P. Donoghue, seeking a sixth term, declined a request by Republican Cort Meinelschmidt, his opponent in the Nov. 2 general election.

On Thursday, Meinelschmidt challenged Donoghue to debate him Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at St. Maria Goretti High School in Hagerstown.

The debate would be hosted by the school's "We the People" government studies program. It would be a free event, but donations would be accepted to raise money for the program.

Meinelschmidt wrote in a news release that a debate would let voters hear the two candidates' philosophies on taxation, illegal immigration and the role of government.


Meinelschmidt said in a phone interview that he considers the school a neutral site because both candidates have ties to it. It's where Meinelschmidt coaches swimming. Donoghue and his children went to school there.

But Donoghue wasn't interested. He said Friday that he'll attend a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce candidate forum on Oct. 20, which he called a sufficient way for voters to hear the candidates speak.

Donoghue said he wasn't consulted about the time, date or place before Meinelschmidt planned the debate.

Also, "I don't think a private Catholic school is the proper venue," he said.

Meinelschmidt said he would negotiate details, but since the school is willing to host, he'd like to hold a debate there.

Two recent attempts to schedule debates in other Washington County races have had mixed results.

A few weeks before their Sept. 14 Republican primary, Del. Christopher B. Shank pressed state Sen. Donald F. Munson to debate.

Munson declined, saying Shank had a terrible record and there was nothing for them to discuss.

Last week, Democrat Brien J. Poffenberger challenged Republican Neil Parrott to three debates in their Subdistrict 2B state delegate race. Parrott accepted, and in cordial e-mails, the candidates agreed to have their campaigns work out the logistics together.

Donoghue said Meinelschmidt's desire for a debate isn't like Shank's because Shank and Munson, as elected officials, had legislative records to contrast. Meinelschmidt hasn't held public office, so "I have nothing to compare to," Donoghue said.

Donoghue went on to question Meinelschmidt's connections to Subdistrict 2C, which mostly matches the borders of the City of Hagerstown.

He said Meinelschmidt grew up in Sharpsburg, went to high school in Williamsport and moved from Maryland to West Virginia.

Meinelschmidt, who lives in Hagerstown now, also has a sparse record of voting in the city, Donoghue said.

"I don't understand where this new commitment to the City of Hagerstown is coming from," he said.

Hearing Donoghue's skepticism, Meinelschmidt said his opponent missed some places where he's lived -- California, Rhode Island, Florida, Virginia and Puerto Rico, while serving in the Navy.

Meinelschmidt said he moved to West Virginia to avoid Maryland's high taxes, but decided to come back and fight to lower them.

He said he has voted once in Hagerstown since he moved back.

Even while living in West Virginia, he worked in Hagerstown, he said.

He also has spent a lot of time at the Hagerstown YMCA, while his mother was the aquatics director.

Meinelschmidt noted that Donoghue was born in New York and has worked outside Hagerstown.

So, while Meinelschmidt wants the candidates to face off on the issues, Donoghue does not.

But Donoghue said that as one of 17 people in his family to have attended St. Maria Goretti High School, he'd gladly make a donation to the "We the People" program if it needs help.

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