Candidates for Maryland’s 6th and 8th Congressional Districts met via Zoom on Sunday, not to debate, but to explain their positions on the issues, and occasionally shoot zingers at their opponent.
Taking part were Rep. David Trone (D-6th District) and his Republican opponent, state Del. Neil Parrott (R-2A); and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8th District) and his Republican challenger, aerospace engineer Gregory Coll.
Journalist Jonathan Salant read aloud the questions, which had been submitted by members of the online audience comprised of 80 people. The forum was sponsored by B’nai Israel Congregation’s Men’s Club and Sisterhood.
The following is a sampling of what the candidates said.
Raskin and Trone were asked what they thought about expanding the number of justices in the Supreme Court from the current nine justices, also known as “court packing.”
Raskin said at this time he wasn’t sure if he’d support packing the court, adding that he was reluctant to do so. But he’d be open to discussing it or on term limits if Amy Coney Barrett is installed on the court.
Trone said he opposes court packing, preferring that a law be passed prohibiting a Supreme Court position from being filled within so many days of an election. He said he is interested in the possibility of eliminating lifetime appointments.
Coll said the government should have allowed businesses and schools to open faster than it did in order to help the economy. He said if elected, his priority will be getting adults back to work and kids back in school.
Parrott said the government’s response to the pandemic was “over the top” and that schools and businesses never should have been forced to shut down in the first place. He said that decision should have been left up to businesses and schools whether or not to close.
Aid to Israel
Raskin and Trone were asked if they would support withholding or limiting military aid to Israel based on diplomatic and policy decisions the Israeli government makes.
Raskin said he is a supporter of military and economic aid to Israel because of its security problems caused by being in “a very dangerous neighborhood with a lot of authoritarian states.” He listed Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as examples.
But, he added, he would not want to pay for “Jared Kushner and Donald Trump’s fantasy of just taking over all of the lands in the West Bank.” So he would not want U.S. aid to support Israeli annexation.
Trone said it would be wrong to condition U.S. aid on Israeli actions, such as annexing the West Bank.
“Israel is a sovereign nation,” Trone said. “They have to make their decisions. We’re their best friend. And we should give them advice privately.”
Iran Nuclear Deal
Parrott described the agreement as a “terrible deal” where the United States “got nothing in return.” He criticized the verification process that was implemented and said, “I think we’re protecting [Israel] better by being out of the deal than in.”
Raskin said leaving the deal was “short sighted and meaningless.” By disengaging with the deal, he said “we disengage from working with our European partners to control the Iran nuclear threat.” He said several people criticized the deal for only limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities for 10 years, “well, that’s 10 years more than we’ve got right now.”
Trone said the United States shouldn’t have signed the deal as it was not tough enough. That being said, he added that the United States should have never left the deal after signing it.
Coll, asked what he would do to address the threat from Iran, said he didn’t have an answer.
Coll and Parrott were asked how they would address any threats Hamas and Hezbollah posed to Israel. Parrott said having more free trade in the Middle East will lead to less terrorism.
“When you have more free trade, and as people in these countries start working together, you’re going to have less and less of that type of terrorist activity,” Parrott said.
Coll said the U.S. military needs to have the “highest technology” in order to guarantee the effectiveness of air strikes, such as the one that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in January. Coll said he approves of the strike, arguing it diminished terrorism in the region.
“Have you noticed lately? Less terrorism,” Coll said. “What just happened? We took out Soleimani. Less terrorism. Taking out the critical leaders when we need to strike tactically leads to less terrorism. Point blank.”