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.