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Charges let loose in race for House

Ginny Brown-Waite calls Rep. Karen Thurman antifamily. The incumbent calls her opponent's plan irresponsible.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002


Republican congressional hopeful Ginny Brown-Waite has come out swinging against incumbent U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman's record on taxes.

Casting Democrat Thurman as too liberal for District 5, which encompasses all or part of eight central Florida counties including Hernando, Citrus and Pasco, Brown-Waite on Thursday accused Thurman of being antifamily with her vote against efforts to permanently repeal the so-called marriage penalty.

"It's time for liberal Karen Thurman to stop playing politics with our families' future," Brown-Waite said. "Her tax-and-spend policies have harmed our families and our economy long enough. It's time for her to go."

Thurman was one of 130 House members to oppose a resolution Wednesday that called for Congress to kill the tax outright before the 107th Congress adjourns. The tax, under which married couples who earn similar amounts get a smaller income tax deduction than if they filed individually, otherwise returns in 2011.

"It's one of the many taxes that she continues to back that are not in keeping with the values and the needs of the district," Brown-Waite said. "I just don't think that being married should be a reason for paying higher taxes."

Thurman agreed that the tax structure should be fixed. However, she said, the tax rate reductions proposed by Republicans are not right either, partly because they would worsen the government's already precarious financial situation.

"When I came to Congress in 1993, we were in deficit spending. By 2000, we were looking at a $5.7-trillion surplus," Thurman told the Times. "Now, we're down to $1-trillion in surpluses. If you take the tax revenue losses from making these tax cuts permanent, plus added interest on the debt, that will wipe out that trillion-dollar surplus. The question then is what happens to Social Security? What happens to Medicare?"

She called Brown-Waite's position irresponsible, especially in light of the costs associated with the current war on terrorism and a possible war with Iraq. Ending the marriage penalty as Brown-Waite proposes would reduce federal revenue by $25-billion annually, she said, and eliminating estate taxes would cut another $850-billion.

"All of these tax cuts that she talks about now go into the (Social Security) trust fund, because there is no surplus," Thurman said.

She supported instead an effort that would double the individual deduction for couples, eliminating the $1,400 difference that currently exists.

Brown-Waite, outgoing president pro tempore of the state Senate, is considered by many analysts to be the most formidable challenger Thurman has faced during her decade in office. Her candidacy is bolstered by new district boundaries that replaced large Democrat-leaning areas with Republican-heavy precincts.

The result is what observers have called one of the most competitive congressional races in the nation.

Brown-Waite hopes to overcome Thurman's incumbency -- a position that has led most analysts to give Thurman an edge toward victory -- by painting her as out of touch with the district's values.

It's not negative campaigning, just "revelations of the voting pattern," Brown-Waite said. "Sometimes you just need to shine that spotlight."

She suggested that expediting tax cuts would help the economy, and added that she had not heard any constituents complain about adding to the deficit to protect the country.

"They want a strong national defense," Brown-Waite said. "I'll support national defense, national security, even if initially it might mean having a deficit, as opposed to someone who was there and voted to increase welfare. Welfare drove up the deficit."

Thurman said Brown-Waite, who has advocated protecting Social Security at the same time she pushes for tax cuts, "Can't have it both ways."

-- Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at 754-6115. Send e-mail to solochek@sptimes.com.

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