Three incumbent Maryland members of the House of Representatives kicked off their campaigns for reelection yesterday, two of them facing their opponents head-on.
The sharpest exchange of the day involved Rep. Newton I. Steers (R-Md.), whose Democratic challenger, Michael Barnes, assailed the freshman congressman for a voting record that is "an embarresment" to liberal, affluent environment conscious Montgomery County.
Steers fired back accusing Barnes of "blaming me for being in favor of higher taxes last year and lower taxes this year." Steers said the former "apparently refers to my vote to rescue the Social Security system," while the latter was a reference to Steers support of the Roth-Kemp tax plan that would reduce federal income taxes 10 percent across the board in each of the next three years.
The tough-taking colloquy occured at a candidates' breakfast of Temple Israel Mon's Club in Silver Spring, which also featured Rep. Gladys Noon Spellman (D-Md.) and the GOP chanllenger for her 5th District seat, Saul J. Harris.
Meanwhile, Rep. Marjorie Holt (R-Md.), seeking her fourth term in the 4th District had things ail her own way at a bull roast on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis. About CIA director George Bush, whom Holt introduced as "a leading candidate for the 1980 Republican nomination for president."
Holt is expected to make her first appearance against her Democratic opponent, Sue Ward. Later this week.
Barnes, a 35-year-old tax lawyer from Kensington, left little doubt that he plans to carry the fight to Steers. He told the breakfast audience of about 75 that Steer's vote "to give Detroit more time to clean up emission controls ought to alone be enough to defeat you. Montgomery County demands clean air."
The most acrimonious language came over Steer's position on deregulation of natural gas. Barnes said, "and I quote from literature Mr. Steers sent to all of us at taxpayers' expense," that Steers' favored and voted for deregulations.
Steers shot back that Barnes had misquoted him, that he favored deregulation of new gas only. "It was what President Carter wanted also," said Steers, adding that "apparently it wasn't enough because the bill is stalled in the Senate."
Another vote by Steers that Barnes said would be a major issue in his campaign would provide tuition tax credits for parents of parochial and private schoolchildren.
Barnes, who attended private schools as a youth and whose wife teaches at a Catholic school in the District, said, "if there is any fundamental obligation of government, it is to maintain strong public education, yet Congressman Steers voted to take $5.3 billion out of the public schools and put into private ones."
It was the only remark of the morning that produced spontaneous applauses from the audience.
Steers, aware that Democrats outnumber Republicans in Montgomery by nearly 2 to 1 recited liberal legislation of his first term that he said has led some Democrats to "invite me to join their party, something some Republicans also think I should do."
Among his accomplishments, Steer listed restoring $2 million in impact aid for county schools; restricting acid mine drainage as an aid to cleaning up the Potomac River; retaining the uniformed services school of medicine at Bethesda Naval Hospital; warning homeowners about the dangers of aluminum wiring; causing EPA to study asbestos contamination; solar energy tax credits, and pending legislation to protect battered spouses.
Steers and Barnes both pledged to the Jewish audience that they would never vote to sell offensive weapons to real or potential enemies of Israel.
Spellman, whose district includes a corner of Montgomery County in Silver Sping and Takoma Park, also criticized the Roth-Kemp tax plan, favored by her opponent, as "a dangerous mirage."
She also warned against balancing the federal budget, saying a precipitous action woudl result in "so much unemployment that it would unbalance it again."
Harris said Roth-Kemp is similar to a proposal endorsed by President Kennedy in the 1960s. "If we get our own money back, we'll know what to do with it" to keep the economy strong, said Harris, a novice at campaigning who spent 18 years as a federal employe with the Public Health Service as a scientist-physicst.
Harris said "Congress is responsible for inflation," adding that "the Democratic-controlled Congress has made government the biggest growth industry" in the nation.
Holt's congressional district, which includes all of Anne Arundel County that part of Prince George's County that is not in Spellman's district is overwhelmingly Democratic in registration. She estimated that as many as half the crowd at yesterday's bull roast at the Bay Ridge Beach Club were Democrats.
One of the persons who paid $15 (about $8.50 of which will go to Halt's campaign fund) was State Del. Patricia Aiken (D-Anne Arundel.
Asked why she had come to a Republican fund-raising event, Aikan replied, "because a great many people who vote for Marjorie Holt . . . also vote for me."
Aiken said "Anne Arundel politics is so interesting because it is so diverse," whereupon she grabbed a man who had just hugged her and said, "tell the reported your political philosophy."
The man grinned and said, "I believe in the divine right of kings." He identified himself as Alfred Shebab of Odenton. Aiken said "He feels that way because his relatives rule some of the Arab countries."
Also working the crowd as it munched beef and sipped beer was GOP gubernatorial candidate J. Glenn Beall and his running mate for lieutenant governor, Aris T. Allen of Annapolis.
Holt told the crowd, "There are so many candidates here that if you look at your neighbor, you'll see a celebrity."
Bush, whose appearance was paid for by the Fund for Limited Government, which is financing his coast-to-coast speaking tour that could bolster his presidential aspirators, called Holt "one of the great leaders of Congress."
Taking note of the bipartisan make-up of the audience, Bush said, "We can't win without the sensitive, sound support of Democrats."
He called for "restricting federal spending, getting the government off the back of taxpayers and turning the tide away from more and more government."
Bush won applause when he added, "and it's time we got off the backs of the CIA and FBI," saying "we must have a foreign intelligence capability second to none."