Friday, Oct. 27, 11 a.m. ET

Maryland Senate Race

Michael S. Steele is running on the theme that
Michael S. Steele is running on the theme that "Washington has no clue of what's going on in your life." (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
Michael Steele
Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate
Friday, October 27, 2006; 11:00 AM

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele will be online Friday, Oct. 27 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss his campaign to represent the state in the U.S. Senate.

Michael Steele is a former chair of the Maryland Republican Party and was the first African American elected to state-wide office in Maryland. He grew up in Washington and attended Archbishop Carroll High School, Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown Law.

Steele lives in Prince George's County with his wife, Andrea, and their sons Michael and Drew.

Read The Post's profile of Steele: A Political Natural, Railing Against Politics

Visit his campaign Web site

A transcript follows.

Programming note: An invitation has been extended to the Democratic candidate, Rep. Ben Cardin, to participate in a separate live online discussion.

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Michael Steele: Thank you for joining me this morning. I look forward to answering your questions. This is an exciting race and a unique opportunity to communicate directly with Marylanders. I love this tech stuff!!

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New York, N.Y.: What is your position on increasing the minimum wage? Do you support Maryland increasing its minimum wage above the Federal minimum wage?

Michael Steele: Thank you for the question. I do support increasing the federal minimum wage coupled with tax and other incentives for small business owners to help them absorb the increased cost in labor. I have always viewed the minimum wage as a "training wage" -- designed to put you on the pathway to greater earning power. My mother worked at a minimum wage job for 45 years and I learned from her experience that this should not be the most money a person makes in their life. I want to see individuals empowered through education and training to earn as much as possible.

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Edgewood, Md.: Mr. Steele, thanks for the chat. Can you share your views on providing affordable health care to all Americans? (or at least all Marylanders!) Thanks.

Michael Steele: I'd like to see the country actually HAVE A CONVERSATION on health care. We started in 1992 and then stopped. We have 46 million Americans without health care so I propose that we get serious and design a health care system that reflects what individuals want -- not the government. I favor health savings accounts designed to empower individuals to have greater ownership over their health care choices, associated health plans for small business owners to pool with other small business owners, a focus on prevention, as well as addressing the obvious disparities in health care. That's a start.

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Virginia: What makes you think you would make a good senator?

Michael Steele: Virginia, I believe in public service. I believe that one person can make a difference, even in the United States Senate. I am tired of the worn out labels, the name calling and finger pointing. I just want to take the people of Maryland with me to Washington and get something done on health care, education and poverty. The only "promise" I've made during this campaign is to commit myself every day to doing my very best to represent the people of my state, to take responsibility for the decisions I make and to be accessible.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Why is it that none of your ads clearly denote the fact that you're a Republican? As an African-American voter, I personally feel like you were "trying to get over" on black voters by seemingly hiding which party you affiliate with.

Michael Steele: I'm not defined by any label. I ran for Lt. Governor as a Republican and I am honored to have served ALL of the citizens of Maryland. My party affiliation is no secret -- you knew I was a Republican. My point is, the labels and colors (red/blue) have begun to define who we are and what we believe. I don't accept that. As a U.S. Senator, I must always be open to people who come to the table with a different perspective. I can't close them off or shut them down because they are a Democrat or white or have a full head of hair (which I don't).

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Hazlet, N.J.: Good Morning, Mr. Steele :

Are you proud of your African-American heritage ? Who are some of your heroes ? Thank you for taking my questions.

Michael Steele: I am extremely proud of my heritage and appreciative of the struggle of so many African Americans on whose shoulders I stand today. From Frederick Douglass to Dr. King to my Mom (Maebell) I have been blessed to be in this moment as the Lt. Governor of my state and (hopefully) the next U.S. Senator from Maryland. I bring to this job the legacy of those who have come before me in order to continue to build upon their dream of equality, opportunity and ownership.

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Silver Spring, Md.: How has being lieutenant governor prepared you for the Senate?

Michael Steele: I have been fortunate to be able give definition to the office of Lt. Governor. During my tenure, I have visited 110 of the 157 municipalities of Maryland -- taking state government directly to the people and learning first-hand the concerns of Marylanders. I have reformed our small business enterprise for the state, laid out a blueprint for strengthening our educational system (stop teaching to the test!), fought for the creation of the Office of Community Initiatives to empower and aid our faith institutions and non-profits to provide the services they do to those most in need. I believe now is a unique opportunity for me to take these same principles and ideas to the Senate. To engage the Senate to focus on the needs of people, not government and special interests. From my experiences across the state, I will bring the voice of all Marylanders to Washington.

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Rockville, Md.: So you say that like puppies, but no mention of cats? Are you a cat-hater?

Michael Steele: I love cats too! I owned one for 12 years.

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Arlington, Va.: Is there any one person in the Senate today that you see as a model for how you would like to be viewed in six years?

Michael Steele: I admire Sen. McCain. I love his independence. Agree or disagree with him, you always know where he stands.

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Beltsville, Md.: Can you name we one thing you would do to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay? Do you view the Bay as a local issue or one of national importance?

Michael Steele: The bay is both a local and national issue. but I also want to focus on the Anacostia (70 percent of which is located in Maryland and flows into the Bay). I've worked with the governor on Bay restoration, and look forward as senator to making certain the resources are there for continued efforts to maintain not just the Bay but the overall ecology of Maryland.

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Largo, Md.: With the rising prices of housing, how do you plan to address the issue of affordable houses/housing with the still low salaries being paid to Maryland residents?

Michael Steele: Great Question. As Lt. Gov., I launched a program in Maryland called "More House 4 Less," which has helped more than 4000 Marylanders purchase their first home. If elected, I will work to institute a mortgage insurance tax deduction for families with incomes below $100K. I will also work to promote policies to make it easier for all Americans to own their own homes, because home ownership is the foundation for legacy wealth creation and the pathway to the middle class.

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Frederick, Md.: The Cardin campaign ads portray you as "loves George Bush." Are there any issues to which you disagree with the Bush Administration or its handling of different issues?

Michael Steele: First. Don't listen to the Cardin campaign.

Second, yes, I disagree with the administration on minimum wage (which I support), affirmative action (which I support), and No Child Left Behind (good idea, poor execution because our teachers have begun to teach to a test).

I also think the administration should recognize it's time to make a course correction on Iraq because the situation there has become a mess. We must begin immediately to put in place benchmarks and strategies to make sure that our soldiers have a safe and effective strategy to come home sooner rather than later.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Please tell us how you agree/disagree with the current policy in Iraq.

Michael Steele: What we have right now in Iraq is a mess. We have a mess that we need to focus full time and attention on, and we need to put in place the benchmarks and the strategies to make sure that those young men and women who are currently serving have a safe, effective strategy to come home. The question that we have to ask ourselves is how do we do that, when do we do that, and how do we begin to put in place those benchmarks. That requires the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people to stand up and defend - and to fight for the very freedom they went to the polls and voted for. Our job there should be nearly done; as they stand up, we stand down. Now is the time, not six months from now, not 18 months from now -- to put that strategy in place so we can begin to see progress and our young men and women can begin to come home.

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Landover, Md.: If you have moral objections to the death penalty stemming from your religious beliefs, why do you only support a moratorium on executions for further study of the issue and not outright repeal of the death penalty?

Michael Steele: I do not support the death penalty. I am very concerned about the studies that show that there exists racial and economic disparities that, in my view, should not be ignored. My opponent, Congressman Cardin, and I are very different on this issue. Congressman Cardin favors the death penalty and he has even voted to limit death row appeals. Congressman Cardin has also voted against a second habeas corpus appeal when potentially exculpatory new evidence is discovered. I believe that the possibility of a person being put to death for a crime they did not commit is enough for us to pause and reflect on the nature and effect of any death penalty policy.

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Michael Steele: When most of us look at the U.S. Senate today, we see an institution and a power structure that cares more about itself than about our problems. We see lobbyists looking to peddle influence and too many elected officials ready to be influenced unduly. We see multi-national corporations get their way while small businesses struggle to navigate a punishing tax and health care structure. The whole system's broken, and it's time for change. That is why I am running for the United States Senate. I want to shake this system up. I want to see the faith in public service restored. I want our kids to know that there is a tomorrow for them and it will be better than today. I want to make a difference in any small or big way I can. So I ask for your vote and support. I think you're ready for change too.

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