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Senate Candidates Differ on Transportation

Dist. 16 Challenger Robert Dyer supports the ICC and Techway while incumbent Brian Frosh says the projects would lead to sprawl.

In the race for state senate in district 16, a medical doctor who has worked in the area for 40 years is challenging a political veteran who is known for his environmental legislation.

Two key policy differences between Sen. Brian Frosh (D-16) and Republican challenger Robert F. Dyer Jr. deal with road construction projects. The Inter-County Connector (ICC), which has already been approved at the state and federal levels, is a proposed toll road connecting I-270 with I-95 that has drawn the ire of environmental groups.

The Techway, which has not been seriously considered by Maryland legislators, is a proposed second bridge across the Potomac River into Montgomery County. Dyer supports both projects, while Frosh opposes both of them.

Frosh said that an additional bridge across the Potomac should be built further north at Point of Rocks.

"Otherwise it will come right into Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve," he said. "That’s one of the achievements in land preservation in Montgomery County history. Putting a Techway into it will effectively destroy it. You’d see the rapid development of that area."

Frosh is one of the few state politicians who oppose the ICC. He believes it will lead to more sprawl and traffic congestion.

"Studies have confirmed that it’s not going to provide relief from congestion, at least down in the southern part of county, and it won’t take traffic off of I-495 or I-270, and it will sap the entire transportation fund budget for the next decade," he said. "I think it’s going to generate additional sprawl."

Dyer disagrees.

"I feel it’s an excellent addition to the transportation system," he said. "This area has a great deal of people who have to go back and forth to work" between Montgomery and Prince George’s County, he said.

DYER AND FROSH also have differing opinions on the Fair Share Health Care Bill, also known as the Wal-Mart law, which required companies with more than 10,000 employees in Maryland to spend 8 percent of their payroll on health care benefits, or donate that amount to state health programs. Wal-Mart was the only company in Maryland that would have been affected by the legislation, which Frosh supported in the General Assembly. The bill was overturned in July by a federal district court because it violated a 32-year-old federal law requiring multi-state employers to maintain uniform administration of health and welfare plans across the country.?"I think the record showed very clearly that it was a clearly defined corporate strategy of Wal-Mart to shift the burden of healthcare for its employees to the state," said Frosh. "They encouraged their employees to apply for Medicaid even though they were employed full time, and many were eligible for Medicaid because they are so poorly paid. It seemed to me that Wal-Mart ought to pay its fair share."

Dyer felt it was unfair for the legislation to single Wal-Mart out. He said he would have voted for the bill if it had mandated that all companies spend 8 percent or more on healthcare.

"I feel that to isolate one corporation and have a rule like this is not correct," said Dyer. "If it’s going to be demanded of Wal-Mart, then all corporations should be forced to do the same thing."

ROBERT DYER’S campaign priorities reflect his experience as a doctor.

"First of all, I’m interested in making medical care more available than it currently is," he said. "I have a large number of people coming to the office who have no insuranceÉ. I’d like to have something somewhat similar to what they have in Massachusetts, with available healthcare for everybody in the state."

Dyer said that doctors are paying exorbitant fees for malpractice insurance, and one of his goals is to reform the laws governing malpractice lawsuits. In addition, he wants to make graduate education more affordable for local families.

"I’m interested in setting up post-graduate scholarship programs so people can attend graduate school without suffering finances the rest of their life. $38,000 per year [for medical school] is an awful lot for people who come from large families," he said. "Few people have that to spend, and it cuts down on the number of people who can be physicians. When they graduate they could have $50,000-$100,000 that has to be paid immediately, and by starting that way they can never set up a private practice, which is very important."

Dyer previously served as chairman of the Board of Police and Fire Surgeons in DC. Howard Yeager, a retired physician from Chevy Chase, worked alongside Dyer on the Board.

"Bob is very intelligent and well-read, and I think he’d make an excellent government official," said Yeager. "He’s very responsible, he’s an excellent physician, and a good family man. He has a very good sense of humor and laughs a lot – he’s a very good-natured individual."

BRIAN FROSH said that his top three campaign issues are improving public education, creating a more efficient transportation network and cleaning up the environment.

Frosh’s signature issue is the environment, and he said that in his first two terms in the senate, he "was either the floor leader or sponsor of every piece of environmental legislation that made its way through the General Assembly." Examples include legislation on Smart Growth and the Brownfields Redevelopment Act, which called for revitalization of contaminated industrial sites. Most recently, Frosh helped pass legislation to restore energy conservation programs that had been wiped out when the General Assembly voted to deregulate energy companies in 1999. He also sponsored a state constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to prohibit the government from selling parkland without the approval of the General Assembly, an amendment he said was triggered by an attempt by Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) to sell parkland to a developer.

Frosh has served as chairman of the judicial proceedings committee for the past four years. Highlights of his work in that area include protecting the privacy of Maryland citizens from direct marketers and stiffening the penalties for people found driving without a license.

"I think I’ve effectively represented the residents of district 16 in Montgomery County for the past 12 years in the senate, and I have a long string of legislative accomplishments," he said. "In addition to that I’ve brought money into the district to build the Capital Crescent Trail, build sound barriers, and fund programs like those at the National Center for Children and Families, the Ivymount School, Imagination Stage, Adventure Theater and Glen Echo Park."

Frosh recently secured money for a volunteer center and dormitories for the National Center for Children and Families, a homeless shelter based in Bethesda that serves 2,500 vulnerable children and adults in the area.

Executive director Sheryl Brissett-Chapman recalled a lobbying session in Annapolis one year when the state budget was especially tight, and she was impressed with Frosh’s consideration for the homeless shelter even in the difficult financial situation.

"When I think of Brian Frosh I don’t think of a politician," she said. "I think of a humanitarian. I think of a caregiver. I think of a person who is a keeper of the question, ‘How does the community take care of its own in a fair, equitable and balanced way, so that the quality of life is good for everyone?’"

<b>Robert F. Dyer Jr. (R)</b>

AGE: 79

EDUCATION: BA, University of Michigan; MD, George Washington University

EXPERIENCE: President, Washington Medical and Surgical Society, 1975-1976; Medical school professor 1963-2005, physician in private practice for 40 years, served on D.C. Board of Police and Fire Surgeons, and D.C. Mayor’s Emergency Council.

OCCUPATION: doctor

FAMILY: Married with four children

LIVES IN: Bethesda

CAMPAIGN FINANCES: no campaign finance data available at the Maryland Voter Information Clearinghouse (http://mdelections.umbc.edu)

WEBSITE: www.drdyer2006.com

<b>Sen. Brian Frosh (D)</b>

AGE: 59

EDUCATION: Walter Johnson High School; Wesleyan University, BA; Columbia University, JD

EXPERIENCE: Maryland House of Delegates, 1987-1995; Maryland Senate, 1995 – present; Chair, Judicial Proceedings Committee; Member, Chesapeake Bay Commission; Director, Clean Air Trust; Member, Executive Nominations Committee; Member, Rules Committee

OCCUPATION: lawyer

ENDORSEMENT HIGHLIGHTS: Sierra Club, AFL-CIO, Montgomery County Education Association, SEIU Local 500

FAMILY: Wife Marcy; children Elena and Alexandra

LIVES IN: Chevy Chase

CAMPAIGN FINANCES: $240,113 in contributions and $148,625 in expenditures since the last election; cash balance of $38,415 as of Sept. 1

WEBSITE: www.brianfrosh.com