Paula Kenny, a resident of District 4, entered the League of Women Voters’ (LWV) Candidates Forum Monday night unsure of who was going to earn her vote in the upcoming election.
After listening to the discussion between Congressional incumbent, Donna Edwards (D—Fort Washington) and challenger Faith Loudon (R—Pasadena), Kenny decided she favored Edwards.
"I was more impressed with Edwards' knowledge and presentation, which I didn't expect,” Kenny said.
The forum, sponsored by the LWV, featured lively discussions ranging from redistricting and the budget to bipartisanship and taxes. It was held on Monday night at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park, and the questions came from many of the approximately 150 people in attendance. Scott Soffen, Libertarian candidate for District 4, did not participate.
Among the topics most highly debated was education.
Edwards spoke about her own educational upbringing. She said her father was in the Air Force and enlisted while she and her five siblings were growing up. Though she worked hard to get good grades and high test scores, Edwards said her parents didn’t have the money to pay for her to attend Wake Forest University, where she ended up graduating.
“My parents on their own just couldn’t afford to send us all to college, so we needed guaranteed student loans and grants and scholarships. I am really proud,” Edwards said. “Even though it was a struggle to pay those loans back, eventually I did and now I have the ability to make sure someone else can have that same opportunity.”
Edwards finished her take on government funding of higher education with a strong stand, which received a round of applause from the crowd.
“I can’t even think of some other greater federal investment than to make them in colleges and education,” Edwards said.
Loudon’s views on the issue of education and funding differed. While she agreed with Edwards that the cost of a college education was too high—Loudon did not believe it was an issue the federal government needed to be responsible for.
“I believe there are certain things that the constitution says that Congress is charged with. I don’t know that college degrees and university degrees are apart of that,” she said. “I think that we on the state level should be in charge of finding out what is going on with the colleges. We the people need to find out why these colleges are costing so much money.”
The issue of educational funding wasn’t the only one Edwards and Loudon disagreed on. In fact, there were several contradicting opinions and viewpoints throughout the night, which was something that was noticed by the crowd.
“It really showed the differences between the Democratic and the Republican view points,” said Loudon supporter and district four resident Liz League. “The Republicans were really for individual freedoms, less government and lower taxes.”
What was perhaps one of Loudon’s strongest moments came shortly after moderator Terence Smith ruffled up the crowd while posing a question about whether Republicans in Congress are intentionally obstructing legislation.
“The Republican party, particularly the Tea party components, have had an open and vigorous and unabashed policy of obstructing Obama administration policy,” Smith said.
His comment drew the night's largest outcry from the crowd and turned the spotlight on Loudon.
“I believe people have values and principles and I think those gentlemen and ladies in Congress all have those values,” Loudon said. “I don’t think there is anyone there that thinks we have to obstruct the administration. They have beliefs they value and want to be taken care of.”
Edwards and Loudon discussed other hot-topic issues, including the nation’s mounting debt. Loudon said she thought the government needed to live within a budget. She also spoke about the mandates and taxes that hinder small businesses saying they need to be taken away.
When it came to the war in Afghanistan, Edwards was pointedly clear on where she felt our troops should be.
“I think it is long past the time we should be out of Afghanistan,” Edwards said. “Our original mission was to defeat Al-Qaida, and in addition to bring Osama [Bin Laden] to justice. I think those things have largely happened. I do believe it is time to come home.”
What wasn’t touched on throughout the night was healthcare, which didn’t seem to bother Kenny.
"I'm glad they didn't talk about healthcare. It's been beaten to death,” she said.
League didn’t agree.
“I was very surprised they didn’t discuss that because it is the biggest tax on our country right now and what they are doing is very unconstitutional,” she said. “I am surprised none of the candidates tried to sneak it in there.”
When the night concluded, people filed out of the church discussing what they had heard. Most people said they came in planning to vote for someone specific and left with that same notion—but not Kenny. It was Edwards who earned her vote Monday night.