ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Four candidates for U.S. Senate in Maryland debated on Wednesday about how to improve the economy and health care during their first such meeting.
Democratic incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin and Republican Dan Bongino participated with independent candidate Rob Sobhani and Libertarian Dean Ahmad on Larry Young's WOLB-AM radio show.
Cardin, who is seeking his second term in the Senate, said a bipartisan plan to address the national deficit needs to be the top priority. Cardin underscored that he believes revenues need to be a part of the plan.
"Everybody should be paying their fair share," Cardin said. "We should eliminate the deductions that allow businesses to send our jobs overseas, and we shouldn't be giving to oil industries special breaks that are not available to other aspects of the energy sector."
Bongino said government needs to get out of the way and lessen the tax burden on residents and businesses.
"Put the money back in Marylanders' pockets," Bongino said. "They know what to do with it."
Sobhani, an entrepreneur and former Republican, said he would focus on bringing foreign investment to Maryland.
"The way I believe we grow our economy is once again we link our economy, Maryland's economy, to the international economy and we go after specific projects," Sobhani said, noting that he supports seeking funding for cancer research and new homes in Baltimore.
Ahmad said too much economic help has been steered to large corporations that should have been allowed to go bankrupt.
"As far as taxes are concerned, I think we have to stop taxing productive activity altogether," Ahmad said. "Instead of taxing production, we should be taxing natural resource extraction and the location value of land, things that truly belong to the commonwealth, and that way stop strangling jobs."
The candidates also debated the federal health care law.
Ahmad and Bongino both support repealing it.
"I think it has to be repealed, and we have to start over," Ahmad said.
Bongino said the law places too much power in the hands of bureaucrats.
"You're going to have a system of low-income and lower-middle-income folks who are relegated to government clinics, government clinics providing substandard care who may have health insurance, but will certainly not have health care," Bongino said.
Cardin, a strong supporter of the law, noted the consequences of repeal, including the loss of a popular provision that allows parents to keep their children on their policies until the age of 26. He also said restrictions on pre- existing conditions would return.
"We need to move forward, not repeal Obamacare," Cardin said.
Sobhani said he supported some aspects of the health care law, including the end of restrictions on pre-existing conditions. However, he believes more effort should be made to include input from patients and doctors.
"Because at the end of the day, it's between a doctor and a patient, and we've got to build out from that relationship a health care system that, as I said, supports some of what President Obama is trying to do but also trying to make sure that it's not all government controlled," Sobhani said.
Senate candidates have two more debates scheduled next week, including one at Salisbury University and at WTTG, the Fox affiliate in Washington.
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