At the Frederick County GOP debate: Scott Cheng, Robin Ficker, Frank Howard, David Vogt, Terry Baker, Amie Hoeber, Frank Howard, Christopher Mason.
By Bryan Renbaum
Republican congressional candidates vying for the chance to represent Maryland’s 6th District favor dramatic changes to the federal tax structure, a shift in healthcare policy and stronger foreign policy. Nearly all want to defund Planned Parenthood.
All candidates were fiscally conservative when it came to taxes.
Del. David Vogt III (R-Frederick) called for the income tax to be consolidated to two tiers with reduced exemptions, because of his concerns that the federal tax code is unfair to small businesses and discourages job growth.
“Our small business are back broken by over regulation from the federal government and the level of corporate tax on the small businesses- – if they can’t create jobs here in our community; we’ve got to be able to fix that,” he told the crowd at the American Legion in Frederick.
The Thursday night debate was sponsored by the Frederick County Republican Party and included eight candidates: Vogt; Washington County Commissioner President Terry Baker; former U.S. Army Deputy Under Secretary Amie Hoeber; attorney and former delegate Robin Ficker; small business owner and U.S. Air Force veteran Frank Howard; U.S. Marine Corps veteran Christopher Mason; Dr. Scott Cheng, who is an instructor at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine; and Harold Painter, an Allegany County accountant.
Flat tax or consumption tax
Terry Baker, who has signed a pledge against any new taxes, said, “One of the first things I’d like to see is eliminate probably 75% of the IRS, and I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to something like a flat tax, a fair tax, we need to do something different in our country.” Christopher Mason said: “I believe that we should change the tax system to a consumption tax, where the average tax on goods and things that you buy, at the average rate of what the states have, so that you collect a federal tax at the cash register.”
The winner of the April 26th primary will likely face incumbent Democrat Rep. John Delaney, who had a close call in 2014 winning by only 2,770 votes against Republican former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino.
The 6th District was represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett for 20 years until redistricting added heavily Democratic sections of Montgomery County to the Western Maryland district and took out key Republican strongholds. Delaney, a wealthy bank CEO, defeated Bartlett in 2012 by 64,000 votes.
Abortion positions questioned
Moderator Charles “Cully” Stimson asked the candidates if they would vote to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services along with other health care, if elected.
All said yes except Amie Hoeber, who said “probably.”
Hoeber again waffled when asked by Stimson to explain what she meant in her comments to a Washington County group that she was neutral on the subject of abortion.
“I’m a mother, I’m a grandmother, I think I understand the preciousness of growing life inside myself better than anyone else at this table, but I would never have an abortion. On the other hand, I believe that the federal government has no right to impose my views on anyone else or anyone else’s views on me,” Hoeber said.
She said she would vote for the Hyde Amendment if elected, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, or when necessary to protect the life of the mother.
Frank Howard, who was born in Spain and subsequently adopted by American parents, said he was pro-life as well and indirectly critiqued Hoeber’s explanation.
“I am pro-life and I believe strongly that this is something that’s deep within me and maybe it comes from my background,” Howard said. “That I understand about the government not telling people what to do in most areas, but when it comes to extinguishing a life, the first weeks for that unborn life, and I believe that the government does have the right and in fact the obligation to step in and prohibit the taking of that life.”
Calls to repeal Obamacare
All of the candidates said they favor a repeal of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Cheng, a doctor, said the law has led to increased premiums for many people. Instead, he suggested offering tax deductions to individuals to expand coverage. Cheng also said small businesses should be encouraged to make contributions to employees to buy health insurance, and that those contributions should be tax deductible.
“We have to repeal Obamacare,” he said.
Robin Ficker also advocated repeal and, like many of the other candidates, said interstate competition among insurance companies might serve as an effective alternative.
“We need to have a system where there’s open competition across state lines, among the various health insurance companies, and give people a chance to pick their individual doctors.”
Foreign policy changes proposed
All agreed that the Iran nuclear deal was a mistake, but Hoeber offered the most detailed critique along with an indictment of the administration’s foreign policy efforts that called for clear lines with firm consequences.
“The first thing that needs to be done is we need to regain the respect around the world that we have lost during the Obama Administration,” Hoeber said.
Painter called for more force in Iran and with North Korea.
“I think we should use both political and economic pressure on both of those regimes. They’re both nuts, you can’t really negotiate with a mad dog,” he said.
Vogt, a former Marine who served in Afghanistan, was asked about that conflict as well as Iraq, and said both were poorly planned by the Bush Administration and had too many military regulations that burdened the armed forces.
“Our biggest problem with both of these wars is we rushed in with absolutely no plan on we were going to handle them and how we were going to eventually get out,” Vogt said. “Then we also tied the hands of the men and women we put over there.”
Vogt also said NATO and U.S allies need to take more responsibility for regional conflicts.
“Tell NATO and the rest of the world to stand up and do what we’ve been doing for decades because we’ve been carrying the burden all alone and they aren’t doing their fair share,” Vogt said.
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