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GOP 6th District candidates mix it up at Chamber forum

March 19, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., standing, speaks Monday morning at a forum at Hager Hall for Republican candidates for Maryland's 6th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Seated, from left, are Kathyrn L. Afzali, David R. Brinkley, Robert Coblentz, Robin Ficker, Peter James, Joseph F. Krysztoforski and Brandon O. Rippeon.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Eight Republican running for Maryland’s 6th District seat in Congress touted their records, qualifications and positions Monday at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce forum.

Incumbent Roscoe G. Bartlett told the crowd at Hager Hall Conference & Event Center in Hagerstown that his opponents’ campaigns will highlight “a lot of good things that I voted against and a lot of bad things that I voted for” — plucked from “huge bills” with a mix of good and bad.

Overall, though, he said, he has kept his promise to oppose increases in taxes and regulations and to support smaller government.

Sure enough, his opponents targeted him occasionally during the forum.

Del. Kathryn L. Afzali said Bartlett has “repeatedly voted against drilling (for oil) in the United States.”

State Sen. David R. Brinkley called Bartlett “absent” while Democrats in Annapolis reshaped the 6th District to favor a Democratic candidate and criticized him for voting to raise the debt ceiling.

Alleging that the United States has lagged in education, technology and innovation, Brandon Orman Rippeon said, “Congressman Bartlett has had 20 years to fix these issues. I don’t think we can afford another two years of him.”

Mainly, candidates stuck to their own platforms and credentials as they answered questions the chamber of commerce provided in advance.

Joseph T. Krysztoforski recalled that several years ago, he correctly predicted some problems that later surfaced: a devalued dollar, the threat of the nation’s credit rating being downgraded.

“Fiscal accountability is my top priority,” he said. “Reducing the national debt, cutting spending, energy self-reliance and addressing some of the immigration issues that we’re dealing with, primarily enforcing our current immigration laws.”

Focusing on his business credentials, Rippeon said, “I understand the future of Washington County, and all of District 6 depends on private-sector investment, private-sector developments, promoting savings and investments, simplifying the tax code.”

Later, he added, “Business is warfare, and these countries are coming for us. The enemy is at our gate.”

“Government has gotten too big and bloated. It needs to be cut,” Robert Coblentz said. “And I believe in individual liberty. And I think those two don’t go hand in hand.”

He said the free market should dictate investment and called for an overhaul of the tax code.

Afzali’s bullet-list agenda if elected included energy independence, securing the borders, cutting overregulation of American companies, repealing the new health care program, cutting corporate taxes and fixing Interstate 270.

“And I hope to fix all of those before lunch my first day on the job,” she quipped.

Peter James, whose main platform is creating a sound money system, distanced himself from other candidates’ job-creation pledges.

“All the other candidates are going to go to Congress and create jobs,” he said. “I call that nonsense. The only power Congress has is to create a sound money system.”

James said he previously ran for Congress to warn the public about the collapsing financial derivatives market.

Bartlett, who is seeking an 11th term, named two ways his office helps small businesses in the district: a business development office and forums on government procurement.

Brinkley called for Fort Ritchie, the former U.S. Army base in Cascade that closed in 1998, to be either reopened or otherwise developed.

Robin Ficker trumpeted his opposition to proposed tax increases on gas in Maryland, warning that jobs would move to neighboring states.

He also jabbed Brinkley for trying to shift teacher pension costs to counties, supporting medical marijuana and no longer living in the 6th District after redistricting.

“I’m glad to see David Brinkley here today,” Ficker said. “I thought he had passed away because his literature says he is a lifetime resident of District 6, and I know he doesn’t live in District 6 now. He can’t even vote for himself.”

Later, Brinkley, a state legislator for 17 years, poked back, saying Ficker, a former state delegate, was “fired after one term” and Afzali, in her second year in office, “has yet to have her job review” through re-electon.

The winner of the April 3 GOP primary advances to the Nov. 6 general election against the Democrats’ nominee.

The chamber plans to hold a forum for Democratic candidates March 26.

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