- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

The four Democrats hoping to unseat Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican, focused on control of Congress and issues of national security as they met last night for a final debate before Tuesday's primary.
"As the campaign is winding down, we have two questions: Who can go to Congress and do the best job for you? And the second question is, Who can beat Connie Morella?" said former Clinton administration trade official Ira Shapiro. "I am the only Democrat with the breadth of experience to beat Connie Morella."
Delegate Mark K. Shriver joined Mr. Shapiro, state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen and lawyer Deborah Vollmer in the 90-minute debate before a capacity crowd of nearly 200 at the Friendship Heights Village Center.
Recent polls have put the race as a dead heat between Mr. Shriver and Mr. Van Hollen with 30 percent of the vote each and Mr. Shapiro trailing behind with roughly 15 percent. Mrs. Vollmer, a perennial candidate, has approximately 5 percent of support. There is still a sizable portion of the electorate that is undecided, although most in attendance last night had already made up their minds, as evidenced by stickers and shirts.
"I looked at where this Bush administration was going and when I looked at what Republicans in the House were doing and what [House Majority Whip] Tom DeLay was doing, I did not like it. I hope to be a part of changing direction in Washington," Mr. Van Hollen said.
National Democrats, with the help of the Democratic-controlled Maryland legislature who redistricted Mrs. Morella's seat to include more Democrats, are looking to this race as a chance to pick up a seat in the closely divided House of Representatives.
Currently Republicans hold a six-seat advantage in the 435-member House. Mrs. Morella, an eight-term incumbent, is considered by many the most vulnerable House incumbent. She is a centrist Republican who more often than not votes with Democrats. But it is her vote for Republican control of the chamber that Democrats want to change.
"This is one of the six seats that if it goes to the Democratic column it could put [House Minority Leader Richard A.] Gephardt in control," Mr. Shriver said. "Some people say that Connie Morella is 'not so bad.' But I say 'not so bad is not good enough.' Connie Morella is an enabler, and I think it's time to stop."
While President Bush weighs entering into conflict with Iraq, all the candidates warned him against doing it alone and said that while they support the war on terror, more information needs to be distributed to the American people and the Congress.
Only Mrs. Vollmer was opposed outright to any involvement in Iraq and used her opening statement to hammer home this point.
"We don't have any warmongers among us, but we need to put the brakes on going to war. We should be peacemakers in this world, not warmongers," she said. She added that Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat and the sole member of Congress to vote against authorizing Mr. Bush to use the military to fight terrorism last year, was right, and that she would vote the same way, if elected.
The other three candidates said that Saddam Hussein was evil, and that the world would be better if he were gone, but they would need more information on how to deal with Iraq from the president and Congress if they were elected before making a final decision on how to go forward.


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