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Amie Hoeber

Debate/Survey List >> 6th District Gop Candidates Questioned at Funkstown Debate

6th District Gop Candidates Questioned at Funkstown Debate

February 25, 2016

National issues were brought down to the local level Thursday night, as Washington County voters got a chance to hear from the field of Republicans looking to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. John Delaney in the 6th Congressional District.

Seven of the eight candidates running for the GOP nomination in the April 26 primary were in attendance at the Funkstown American Legion for a lively debate on a wide array of topics, including national security, immigration reform and the economy.

"We believe Washington County deserves an event like this," said Ginger Bigelow, president of the Washington County Republican Club, the organizer of the debate. "We have the larger Republican voter bloc in the district, so why shouldn't it be in our backyard?"

Candidates in attendance included Washington County Commissioner Terry L. Baker, Scott Cheng, Robin Ficker, Amie Hoeber, Frank Howard, Christopher James Mason and Frederick County Del. David E. Vogt III. Although confirmed, Harold Painter was absent.

One of the largest and most gerrymandered districts in the entire nation, Maryland's 6th District covers all of Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties, as well as portions of Frederick and Montgomery counties.

Bigelow said the issues for the three Western Maryland counties and their more-urban counterparts to the southeast are very different.

"We have more agricultural. They have more transportation issues," she said. "So this is really important."

The debate, moderated by political writer and former congressional candidate Ken Timmerman, featured a number of group and individual questions, as well as straw polls by a show of hands.

All candidates opposed the federal Common Core education standards, Obamacare and federal legalization of marijuana.

And they all supported gun rights, securing the country's southern border and ending birth-right citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Other hot-button issues, such as abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood, also drew strong comment.

"Government should not be paying for abortions," said Vogt, 31, of Brunswick. "There is no, if and or but about that."

"Abortion is murder," said Mason, 36, of Frederick. "We should defund it."

Vogt and Mason spoke during a segment in which candidates were asked if they were in favor of shutting down government, and what circumstances would be grounds to do so.

Responses were mixed, with some saying closing government could be a good thing at times, but Hoeber, 74, of Potomac was not one of them.

"I have always been in favor of less government, but the way to do it is not to eliminate" funding for it, she said. "It disproportionately harms the workers in the 6th District."

After a midway break, the candidates were asked about sequestration. Has it been useful? How do they plan to attack the nation's $19 trillion debt?

Howard, 54, of Derwood, Md., stressed the need to prioritize during the budget process and find smart ways to reduce spending.

"This government is bloated, and we need to cut some things out," he said.

Baker, an ultra-conservative voice as commissioners' president, said he would use a similar approach to the way he has managed the county over his three terms.

"We're a nation of debt. We're in trouble," said Baker, 60, of Clear Spring. "And we need some people from humble beginnings that know the true value of a dollar."

Ficker, 72, of Boyds suggested that the sequester should only apply to the "big-spending liberals in Montgomery County."

Later, Ficker used some of his time to hammer home his plan of widening interstates 81 and 270.

"We need someone who's going to be down on the (Capitol) Hill, fighting for Western Maryland," he said.

Questions also addressed issues of national security, such as the ongoing conflict with ISIS, the Iran deal and Russia rebuilding its weapon stocks.

"We need to destroy ISIS," Mason said. "Make an example of ISIS, let them know we mean business."

During his closing remarks, Cheng, 53, of Montgomery Village recapped his platform, including securing the nation's border, addressing national security issues, cutting taxes and reforming health care, among other issues.

"I love America," he told the audience.

In an informal straw poll by attendees of the debate, Hoeber was tapped as the favorite in the congressional race, while Donald Trump was chosen as the favorite to win the GOP nomination for president.

The winner of the GOP primary election will move on to face either Delaney or challenger Tony Puca in the Nov. 8 general election.