Green Party Candidate Crashes Maryland Senate Debate - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Green Party Candidate Crashes Maryland Senate Debate

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Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers crashed the U.S. Senate debate between Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Del. Kathy Szeliga Wednesday in Baltimore, Md. (Photo: WJZ in Baltimore) Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers crashed the U.S. Senate debate between Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Del. Kathy Szeliga Wednesday in Baltimore, Md. (Photo: WJZ in Baltimore)

BALTIMORE (AP) - Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers wasn't invited to a U.S. Senate debate in Maryland on Wednesday, but she took center stage there anyway. When she tried to participate, security at the University of Baltimore grabbed her by the arm and escorted her away from where Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Del. Kathy Szeliga stood waiting to begin.
    
The debate got off to a shaky start, when audience members asked for Flowers to be included. Then Flowers suddenly got up out of her seat in the audience and walked on stage. She shook hands with the other two candidates before standing in the middle of the stage, where she said she should be able to debate.
    
"I think it's important for voters to understand the differences between myself and Congressman Van Hollen and Del. Szeliga," Flowers said. "Otherwise, they don't really know. I mean, you say you're a public university and you want to educate the public, but without having a full public discussion that doesn't actually happen."
    
As Flowers made her case, both Szeliga and Van Hollen said they would agree for her to participate, but debate organizers said only candidates polling at 15 percent or higher were allowed. The debate was taped in the early afternoon. It was to be shown on WJZ-TV at 7 p.m. The debate was sponsored by The Baltimore Sun, the League of Women Voters and the University of Baltimore.
    
"And this is how you're treating a candidate," Flowers shouted, as she was led away.
    
The debate began after about a 10-minute delay. Van Hollen was interrupted in his opening remarks by an audience member who supported Flowers' participation, prompting him to say: "I'm not sure it makes sense to continue."
    
Still, the debate went forward, after Flowers was escorted to a sidewalk by the university. Sam Tress, the university's chief of police, said she was cooperative.
    
Van Hollen is a seven-term Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Szeliga, a Republican, is the minority whip in the Maryland House of Delegates. They are running for the seat that's opening up with the retirement of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who is leaving office after 30 years.
    
Here's a look at some of the issues the candidates debated:
    
GUNS
    
Szeliga, who voted against a sweeping Maryland gun-control bill in 2013, said the answer to gun violence is to take violent criminals off the streets. "We have to enforce the laws on the books, and that's how we're going to turn things around," she said. Van Hollen noted his push in the Maryland General Assembly when he was a state legislator to require trigger locks in guns. He is sponsoring federal legislation to create incentives to help states set up handgun-licensing programs.
    
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INSIDER-OUTSIDER
    
Van Hollen is campaigning as the experienced candidate, who has shown a willingness to work with Republicans to break through political gridlock. Szeliga is running as an independent voice, describing her opponent as a Washington insider.
    
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SYRIA
    
Szeliga said she would not support putting U.S. troops on the ground in Syria. "I don't think that we have a clear mission," she said. Van Hollen said he opposed the war in Iraq, and that the U.S. has seen the fallout from the war. "I believe that putting American ground combat troops in Syria would be a huge mistake and just make matters worse," he said. He added that he supports eliminating ISIS by supporting the Iraqi military and the Kurdish forces in both Iraq and Syria.
    
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HEALTH CARE
    
Van Hollen said revisions and modifications are needed for health care reform, especially to health care exchanges. But he said it would be a mistake to "throw out" the entire Affordable Care Act. Szeliga said she supports keeping some provisions, including allowing people with pre-existing conditions to be insured and allowing kids to stay on plans, but she said tort reform is needed.
    
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DRUG ADDICTION
    
Van Hollen said the federal government should move from using the criminal justice system to address drug addiction to a health care model. "We do need to make sure that the resources are available at the federal level for health clinics in all of our neighborhoods," Van Hollen said. Szeliga said local officials can best address the scourge of drugs such as heroin. "So I believe we need to empower our local health departments, our local law enforcement, our local recovery centers and our parents and families to really deal with this issue at its core," she said.
 

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