Cardin, Steele Square Off in Televised Debate

By Matthew Mosk and Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 26, 2006

Republican Senate candidate Michael S. Steele sought to paint his Democratic opponent Benjamin L. Cardin as out of touch on issues important to the Washington suburbs, while Cardin pressed Steele on the Iraq war during a television appearance yesterday that at times seemed more shouting match than debate.

Cardin appeared surprised during the exchange on NewsChannel 8 when Steele quizzed him about the start and end points of Metro's proposed Purple Line -- an east-west rail line that would connect Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Cardin started to answer, sputtering, incorrectly, "Chevy Chase" before stopping abruptly and snapping, "I'm not going to answer your question."

After the debate, Cardin was asked several times by reporters if he knew the route, and while insisting he did, he refused to answer.

"I support the Purple Line," he said at first. Then, "I'm not sure they've settled on specific sites."

The unanswered question, Steele said during the debate, was a pointed illustration of how little Cardin knows about suburban Washington issues.

"This gentleman has no clue about Metro traffic, congestion in this region," said the lieutenant governor, a resident of Largo. "I know exactly what the needs are because I live here."

The free-wheeling, hour-long debate, the first of three joint appearances this week, jumped from stem cell research to Iraq to national health insurance reform. Cardin and Steele were joined by independent candidate Kevin Zeese, who has the backing of the Green, Libertarian and Populist parties.

There were no rules, and through much of the sparring, Bruce DePuyt, who hosts the WJLA program "News Talk," sat back as the candidates bickered, interrupted and talked over one another.

Cardin pressed Steele repeatedly on the war, stressing his own vote four years ago against going into Iraq.

"You keep saying you voted against war in Iraq, and we applaud you for that," Steele responded.

" Do you applaud him for that vote?" DePuyt asked, interrupting.

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