BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Incumbent Steve Chabot and challenger Roxanne Qualls laid out vastly different views of what it means to be a member of Congress in their third and final debate Tuesday.
Before about 300 people in the Great Hall at the University of Cincinnati's Tangeman Center, the two candidates disagreed sharply over how a House member should view bringing federal dollars into his or her district.
"The duty of an elected representative is to serve the district's interest and to make sure that, of the tax dollars we send to Washington, we get our fair share back," said Ms. Qualls, Democratic mayor of Cincinnati.
Mr. Chabot said that while he has been able to support some federal projects that would bring money into the 1st District, he does not support spending for "wasteful or unnecessary" federal programs. CP:S. Chabot
"My view of government is pretty simple," said Mr. Chabot, the Westwood Republican running for a third term. "The federal government has gotten too large and taxpayers ought to be able to keep more of what they earn, instead of sending it to Washington in the first place."
Ms. Qualls repeated her charge that Mr. Chabot should have supported a federal transportation bill this year that contained money for study of a light-rail system in Cincinnati and other local projects. "Mr. Chabot has demonstrated that his personal ideology is more important to him than the needs of his congressional district," she said.
Ms. Qualls also criticized the GOP incumbent for his vote last week against the $520 billion budget agreement, a vote that put him at odds with the GOP House leadership.
The agreement, passed last week after being hammered out between GOP congressional leaders and the Clinton administration, included funding for the hiring of 100,000 more teachers nationwide and funding for 570,000 summer youth jobs. Millions from that bill, Ms. Qualls said, will come to Cincinnati.
Mr. Chabot said he voted against the package because it was "loaded with pork" and dipped into the projected federal budget surplus by $20 billion.
"That bill had money for grasshopper research in Alaska and Vidalia onion research in Georgia and a lot of other stuff that makes no sense," Mr. Chabot said. "Roxanne can defend that garbage all she wants, but that's not what government is here for, and that's not why I was sent to Congress."