On the campaign trail - March 19

Post-forum showdown

March 19, 2012

During a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce GOP Congress candidate forum Monday, Del. Kathryn L. Afzali talked about going “nose to nose, toes to toes” as a campaigner.

That nearly happened after she said during her closing statement that she has been praised for “passing bills that Senator (David) Brinkley tried for 20 years to pass.”

Later, she told The Herald-Mail that she was referring to last year’s bill to exempt agricultural land worth no more than $5 million from an estate tax.

Afzali recruited Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, to push for the bill. He promised to testify for the bill in the House, but only spoke for the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick/Washington.

O’Malley spokeswoman Takirra Winfield wrote in an email Monday that “a scheduling conflict” kept the governor from testifying in the House.

This year, the bill is back, with broader support.

The Gazette quoted Afzali in January as saying someone “very high in the administration” told her the bill would pass this year, but without her name on it.

However, Winfield wrote that the governor’s office asked Afzali if she wanted to be a sponsor “at the start of the session when we submitted the legislation.”

Regardless, when Monday’s forum was over, Brinkley and his campaign spokesman, Don Murphy, challenged Afzali to explain her allegation about Brinkley and the bill.

As she prepared for a TV news interview, Afzali asked if the men were trying to intimidate her.

Brinkley, a state lawmaker for 17 years, noted that he hasn’t even been in the General Assembly for 20 years and that the bill she mentioned hasn’t passed yet.


Murphy told Afzali she shouldn’t lie about her record.

After doing her TV interview, Afzali said Brinkley and Murphy were “just being bullies.”

Brinkley later said that he previously sponsored legislation for Maryland to increase its estate-tax exemption limit as the federal limit rose, and not just for agricultural land.

Off by one

The Chamber’s plan for the forum was to have each of the eight Republican candidates answer three of the eight questions.

However, after all of the questions and answers were over, candidate Peter James noted that he was only given two questions, so he declared that he’d take more time on his closing statement.

He received a little extra time, but not as much as he wanted before moderator John Latimer IV cut him off.

The problem was in the last question; only two candidates, instead of three, were asked for their answers.

Hamming it up

Peter James was the only candidate at Monday’s forum with props — a ham and a Muppet.

Picking up the Muppet doll, revealing the actual ham, he said, “I’m sorry to say, though, this will be the only pork I’m going to be bringing to you until (the) next Christmas ham. And this is my little buddy the Muppet, which Goldman Sachs is now calling all of us, Muppets. Ask a British friend if you want to know what that means.”

A little help, please?

While answering a question during Monday’s forum, Robin Ficker’s cellphone rang. Ficker continued talking as he reached into his pocket, tried unsuccessfully to stop the ringing and handed the phone to candidate Peter James.

James silenced the phone.

— Andrew Schotz

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