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Sitting Lawmakers Split on Congressional Debate Challenge

Timonium candidate Larry Smith issued the proposal for eight, one-hour debates leading up to the primaries.

A Republican state senator running for Congress has turned down a proposal from a primary challenger to meet in a series of debates, while another candidate, who serves in the House of Delegates, says he’s all for it.

, a Timonium resident, issued the proposal last week for eight one-hour debates between the Republican candidates running for the House of Representatives in District 2. Each debate would focus on one topic and would be scheduled between now and the April primary.

“There are so many serious issues confronting us such as taxes, education, health care, the economy, national security, and federal spending. Each issue deserves more than a 30-second sound bite. Our differences should be aired in public forums in an open discussion of ideas,” Smith wrote in a news release.

“I think voters deserve to hear directly from the candidates as to how they will represent this district in Congress and their goals,” he continued.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Harford and Cecil) declined the proposal, citing her responsibilities in Annapolis and to her constituents in Harford County.

“I would like to be able to do it, but my schedule and my commitment to the constituents that I represent right now has to be first and foremost. This is my job,” Jacobs told Patch last week.

Jacobs stepped down as the Senate minority leader prior to the start of the 2012 legislative session because she said running for Congress meant “a second full-time job."

“I didn’t think it would be fair to me, or my senators, if I weren’t fully devoted to what my job would be as minority leader,” she said.

The Harford County senator said she would be focusing on publishing position papers and reaching out to voters across District 2 between now and the April primary.

Jacobs’s Republican colleague Del. Richard Impallaria (R-Baltimore and Harford counties), however, has confirmed he will participate in the debates.

“I think the public has the right to know what our positions are—a debate really brings that out,” Impallaria said. "Someone like Ronald Reagan, who was elected to office as president, knew exactly what he was going to do on the day he was elected. He wasn’t putting his finger up to the wind to figure out what he should do. You see that in a debate. A person should be able to answer those questions.”

On Jacobs’s refusal to participate, Impallaria said:

“If the debates were between 9 o’clock in the morning and 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I wouldn’t participate in them, because we do have a duty. I know that they will not fall during those hours, so there’s no reason for her to not participate other then she feels she’s not comfortable dealing with the issues and not comfortable giving clear answers.”

Candidate Howard Orton, of Anne Arundel County, said he would participate as well.

Candidate Ray Bly, of Howard County, was initially overlooked by the Smith campaign, although Bly said he wasn’t surprised due to changes in district boundaries. The 63-year-old Vietnam War veteran is awaiting the challenge invitation to arrive by mail. Because of a disability, he said distance to the debate would play a factor in his decision to participate.

Candidate Vladimir Degen, of Reisterstown, did not initially respond to the challenge. Patch followed up with Degen, who said he had reservations about the eight-week, one-hour long format, although he was generally in favor of debating. He expects to discuss the parameters of the debates with Smith’s camp this week.

Smith’s spokesman Brett Mather said he hopes that Republican clubs and organizations across District 2 will be willing to host some of the debates. The Republican primary winner will contend with for his seat in Congress.

Snow February 07, 2012 at 10:10 PM
I'm not sure but Del. Impallaria may not serve on a committee whose hearings go into the evening hours and Sen. Jacobs does. I believe she serves on a committee that has twice the number of bills to handle as other committees as well. While I applaud debates (although 8 seems extreme) I also applaud that a politician is doing their current job that they've been elected to serve. I'm tired of politicians allowing their responsibilities to go unfulfilled while they campaign.
K February 08, 2012 at 02:25 AM
By engaging in the debate process, Senator Jacobs would allow all the residents of the 2nd district to see and hear her positions and how they stack up against the other candidates. I would imagine that Mrs. Jacobs has the ability to carry out her senatorial duties and attend 8-one hour debates concurrently. Especially since she's a career politician who has most likely fine-tuned her public speaking prowess. Lt. Col. Smith has issued the challenge to all candidates and I appreciate the opportunity to view a lively, informative exchange. Frankly, I think Del. Impallaria hit the nail on the head with his asssessment of Senator Jacob's disinterest in speaking freely and candidly in a public open format. How can she find the time for her second career,seeking the 2nd district congressional seat, and still serve her current constituents? Hmmmmm.....
RCO1726 February 08, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Everyone should definately visit Candidate Larry Smith's website at larrysmith4congress.com. Larry is a true leader and when you talk to him you will know it. Why is Nancy Jacobs declining to debate? We need to properly examine all of our candidates and see what ideas they would bring to the national level. There is a big difference between the state and national level. Dutch will be a tough candidate to beat. Larry Smith is the candidate that will not back down to a debate. He wants everyone to know where he stands, he wants to fight for the nomination. Today we need a leader in Washington, not someone who will just fall into the crowd of representatives and go along with the status quo. We need a trailblazer. He is a leader who is going to tell you what the real problems are and then how he intends to grab the bull by the horns to fix them. Nancy has put her name on the ballot and is hoping you elect her purely on name recognition. She needs to do what Larry is proposing and debate. We need to see what her ideas are, Larry has every intention of telling the constituents of the 2nd district his ideas. He is a candidate that wants everyone to know his ideas, not run on name recognition as Nancy intends to do. This has been made clear by her decision to decline from debating ideas. Larry is hosting a press conference tomorrow at 10:15 am on t.v. hill at the intersection of Hooper and Rockrose Ave. Again, check Larry Smith's website at larrysmith4congress.com.
Al Mendelsohn February 08, 2012 at 04:01 AM
This is an opportunity for the Republicans to get to know the candidates and not vote because of media hype. This will also generate the publicity that will be required to win the general election. I hope that Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger's will also debate during the season. He has a lot to explain about the votes that he has cast. Al Mendelsohn, Vice Chairman, Baltimore County Republican Party (but the opinions are my own)
K February 08, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Well said Al. When candidates are presented with the opportunity to openly debate and then refuse, they are doing a disservice to their future constituents. People want to see these folks in action and hear what they have to say, especially up against their rivals. Senator Jacobs's reasons for refusing Larry Smith's debate challenge are weak and difficult to take seriously.

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