Cumberland Times-News

Local News

March 25, 2012

Bartlett under attack at Republican forum

2012 — CUMBERLAND — The longtime incumbent congressman for the 6th district found himself under attack by his opponents in the Republican primary at a candidate’s forum held Saturday at Allegany College of Maryland.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett held up the card entitling him to a rebuttal several times during the forum in which eight candidates participated. The ground rules of the forum allowed a candidate criticized by name by another candidate to hold up a card signifying they wanted to reply.

It was something like a National Football League challenge to an official’s call, and a few times, more than one rebuttal card was waving. Rebuttals to rebuttals though, were not allowed.

Besides Bartlett, the candidates participating were: Delegate Kathy Afzali, Sen. David Brinkley, Robert Coblentz, Robin Ficker, Peter James, Joseph Krysztoforski and Brandon Rippeon.

One battle started when Afzali accused Bartlett of voting against opening up the Alaskan wilderness and other areas to more drilling for oil. Bartlett instantly held up his card, asking for a rebuttal. Afzali said Bartlett’s votes were hurting the nation’s quest for energy independence.

Bartlett said he had just voted for the Keystone pipeline and to open up responsible offshore drilling. He also said he’s waged a vigorous educational campaign on alternative energy.

“We are way late on investing in alternative energy,” Bartlett said.

Afzali also implied that Bartlett wasn’t bringing home enough federal bacon, and said she’d be a “barracuda” and bring money back to the district.

“Let me explain to you how this works in Washington,” Bartlett said. While all members of congress have certain limited funds they can specifically designate, spending for the vast majority of money coming back to a congress members district is determined by state and federal agencies, he said. “I publish my earmarks on my website,” Bartlett said.

The candidates uniformly opposed raising the federal minimum wage, and several would abolish it if they could.

“Of course I do not support raising the federal minimum wage,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett joked that if congress can legislate prosperity, then they had the power to mandate longevity. The minimum wage only hurts the people it’s designed to help, he said. Brinkley said he’s voted against minimum wage proposals in Maryland because “it makes it harder for people to get jobs,” Brinkley said. Coblentz saids he believes the free market creates jobs and that minimum wage hurts job creation.

“We don’t need more prison jobs and more gambling jobs, we need more good manufacturing jobs,” Ficker said. James said the Constitution does not allow for Congress to set a minimum wage. “The federal minimum wage hurts jobs, it does not create jobs,” Krysztoforski said. Rippeon said the government needs to get out of the economy.

Afzali said over-regulations meant “we are no longer a free market economy.” Afzali would fight against minimum wage increases and other regulation, she said.

Candidates also addressed the federal debt and the budget.

Coblentz said he favors a flat tax. Ficker said he wouldn’t vote for any tax hikes. The money system works like a Ponzi scheme, James said.

“We can balance this budget by growing the economy,” Rippeon said.

In their opening statements, candidates offered thoughts on why they were running for congress. “I’m running because I am a mom,” said Afzali, who described herself as a conservative Republican and businesswoman. She said she would vote to repeal Obamacare, never support raising the debt ceiling and aim to make the U.S. energy independent.

Bartlett said endorsements from conservative organizations and a 92 percent lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union show he’s a reliable conservative. Brinkley said the situation is Washington is “abysmal.” Brinkley, a Frederick farm owner and businessman said his colleagues in Annapolis have shown their confidence in him by electing him minority whip and then minority leader.

“If you think O’Malley’s second term is bad. .. see what Barack Obama’s second term will be like,” said Coblentz, a project manager and senior systems analyst. Ficker said he’d “never forget Western Maryland. “I’m not just up here for the campaign,” Ficker, an attorney, said.

Job creation  and the economy, should be the number one issue, James said. James describes himself as a “pre-FDR” constitutional constructionist, who does not believe congress has the authority or ability to create jobs.

“I’m not proud of my government any longer,” said Krysztoforski, a business executive and entrepreneur. The deficit “is not a revenue issue but a spending issue,” Krysztoforski said. Rippeon said he operates a company that generates $100 million in revenue and that he has the business knowledge and leadership skills to make a difference in Washington.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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