HAGERSTOWN, Maryland — Republican challenger Dan Bongino said Thursday that he'll never vote to raise taxes if elected to the Congress — just the sort of uncompromising position that freshman Rep. John Delaney said causes congressional gridlock.
"Everything I'm doing is on a bipartisan basis," the Democratic incumbent told a Chamber of Commerce audience at the season's first candidate forum in the 6th District race.
Green Party candidate George Gluck also participated in the forum which, though cordial in tone, highlighted clear differences between the major party contenders.
Bongino, a former Secret Service agent from Anne Arundel County who lost a U.S. Senate bid in 2012, offers a conservative platform of lower taxes, a balanced budget, school choice vouchers and opposition to the 2010 federal health care law — "a disaster," he said.
Bongino said cutting corporate taxes is the key to job growth in the district, which includes a Democrat-heavy section of Montgomery County and most of rural, Republican-leaning western Maryland. He said Delaney's jobs plan, a bipartisan bill to rebuild America's roads and bridges through a public-private partnership, is too complicated and deeply flawed.
"This is just rife with cronyism right now and selective 'investment' on who gets to pick where the money goes," he said. A simpler solution would be to use more gasoline tax dollars to build roads, Bongino said.
Delaney said that besides creating jobs, his Partnership to Build America bill would help fund the widening of Interstate 81, a north-south route crowded with trucks that intersects I-70 in Hagerstown.
"We have to make sure that this area, from a logistics-distribution transportation perspective, is as competitive as possible," said Delaney, a wealthy Montgomery County businessman who founded two successful financial businesses before running for office in 2012.
He and Bongino also split on immigration policy, with Delaney supporting a path to citizenship for those living in the United States illegally. He said it would be "both immoral and really bad bottom line for our country" to deport those 11 million people.
Bongino said the only path to citizenship he favors is the naturalization process his Colombian wife followed.
"We already have a path to citizenship," Bongino said. "You know what it's called? Citizenship."
The race will test the strength of western Maryland conservative voters whose voices were muted by Democrat-led redistricting after the 2010 census. The number of registered Democrats in the redrawn district increased, enabling Delaney to defeat 10-term Republican congressman Roscoe Bartlett.
"I have a good feeling this time," said Stuart Mullendore, a registered Republican and vice president of HBP Inc.
Delaney leads in campaign fundraising. His camp reported a total of $884,000 raised from 2013 through June, versus Bongino's $602,000 during the same period.