- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2006

HAGERSTOWN - The candidates for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat met in their second debate today, with Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele saying his opponent has lost touch with people outside the District.

“Washington, in my view, has gotten outside of itself. It is in a place that none of us recognizes,” said Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, Republican, to a crowd of about 200 in a hotel ballroom.

“None of us has any clue what they’re doing because they have no clue what’s going on in your daily lives,” said Mr. Steele, who is running as a candidate who will “shake things up” on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Steele’s opponent, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a 10-term congressman from Baltimore, asked the audience to judge him on his record, and emphasized to the heavily pro-Steele crowd his work with Republicans in Congress.

“I’m a member of congress who’s been able to get things done,” Mr. Cardin said.

Mr. Cardin, a Democrat, spoke first to the Washington County Chamber of Commerce crowd. He delivered opening remarks and then took questions that were written by audience members.

Mr. Steele then followed Mr. Cardin, shaking his hand on his way in. But other than that, neither candidate was in the room at the same time, and they did not directly engage one another.

The debate was taped by local cable station, Antietam Cable, and will be broadcast in Washington County.

Mr. Cardin labeled himself a “deficit hawk,” and said his first priority in the Senate would be to balance the federal budget.

His main point of attack against Mr. Steele was that the lieutenant governor is closely aligned with President Bush.

“Mr. Steele talks about changing the direction of America. I don’t know how you change the direction of America when you agree with the president on so many issues,” Mr. Cardin said.

Mr. Steele said Mr. Cardin was out of touch with rural voters. Mr. Steele said he has sat in traffic on Interstate 70, and knows the area’s needs.

“This part of our state has been forgotten for far too long,” Mr. Steele said. “Some folks think that there aren’t roads out here.”

Mr. Steele told reporters afterwards that he was not going to be the president’s “whipping boy.”

“I’m tired of having to justify everything this administration does. If [Mr. Cardin] wanted to run against George Bush he should have done so two years ago,” Mr. Steele said.

Mr. Steele also said he thinks his campaign is doing better than is reflected in polls, which have him down by an average of 10 points.

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