Maryland Democrats debate in gubernatorial race


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In the only televised debate in Maryland’s highly competitive Democratic primary, eight male candidates for the state’s next governorship battled to be the party’s standard bearer on Monday, pointing to crime, education and the economy as the main concerns of voters.

But the hour-long debate, which aired at 7 p.m. Monday, also featured nuanced distinctions about how far successor to limited-time Governor Larry Hogan (R) should go to tackle income inequality, childcare and the academic, financial and mental health gaps caused by the pandemic.

The Maryland Public Television-WBAL debate also featured the sharpest blows yet among perceived favorites in the July 19 wide-open contest, with clashes over big political issues and the candidates’ personal bests.

Former US Labor Secretary Tom Perez has accused Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot – who has enjoyed great fame for decades in public office – of flip-flopping on whether to support a vast $4 billion education program that the next governor will implement.

“My friend here, Franchot, says he supports him now,” Perez said. “That’s not what he said during deliberations, and that’s not what his actions show.”

The program is a marquee Democratic achievement that will funnel money to poor schools, teacher salaries, tutors, pre-kindergarten and dozens of other programs. Most candidates have campaigned for its implementation – and several have called for going even further to deal with losses from the pandemic.

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Franchot, who calls himself a “fiscal moderate,” deflected the charge in the debate and said in an interview afterwards that he had long been skeptical the state could afford it. But, he added, as governor he would be obligated to fund it. “We’ll take a look at it,” he said.

Author and former nonprofit executive Wes Moore directly questioned Franchot’s integrity, accusing the four-term comptroller of accepting donations from 12 people with contracts before the Public Works Board, on which Franchot sits. .

“When we talk about integrity, payment for play is not part of an integrity pledge,” Moore said.

Franchot ignored the accusation. I have the integrity of my long service in politics that has been totally verified, and I come back to the fact that voters have that confidence in me,” he said.

The estate has impressive resumes in politics and public service, qualifications the candidates say are essential to taking over the governor’s mansion from Republican control. Despite Democrats’ 2-to-1 registration advantage in Maryland, the party has lost three of the last five gubernatorial races and is eager to elevate a candidate capable of winning in November.

Franchot, who has spent 20 years as a state delegate and the past 15 as chief state tax collector, has sided with Hogan on some issues that have antagonized the Democratic Party leadership, but Franchot presented himself as an independent politician.

Moore is a first-time candidate who has garnered numerous endorsements from high-profile parties and has shown fundraising prowess, raking in the most money from the field in January, the most recent data available. .

Perez, who is also a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has solidified support from labor groups.

Moore and Perez pressed each other on their past.

Moore raised the 2018 Congressional Black Caucus vote of no confidence in Perez to suggest he wouldn’t do enough for black voters. (Perez replied that he did and would.)

Perez claimed that while he negotiated settlements during the mortgage crisis, Moore made money working at Citibank. (Moore noted that he doesn’t work in mortgages.)

John B. King Jr., former Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama, questioned whether Moore was involved with a company that tolerated predatory lending; Moore dismissed this claim.

But amid the sniping, the candidates also presented broad visions for the state.

Ashwani Jain noted that he avoids corporate donations and paid campaign staff, and presented a long list of policy ideas, including replacing police officers in schools with public health professionals and the elimination of state income tax for low-income residents.

Doug Gansler, a former attorney general, said “this election is about crime and criminal justice” and presented himself as a law enforcement candidate who can tackle rising violence. He suggested universal pre-kindergarten and child care, but did not elaborate.

Franchot suggested forgiving student loans for people who live in the state for five years and creating more community health centers across the state. He called the violence around the state a threat to economic vitality. “If we don’t have public security or a public security concept, we can’t have a flourishing economy,” he said.

King, who highlighted his role in education, said the state’s sweeping education plan ‘should be the floor, not the ceiling’, and was the only candidate not to endorse a tax holiday on the essence of the state, arguing that the state should invest in reducing dependence on oil: “We have to act as if climate change is the existential threat that it is,” he said.

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Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has touted his record at the helm of that county and his ability to pull the levers of government. He noted the reduction in crime and economic development in the county, and said he used public funding for his campaign because “I don’t want corporations or special interests to think they can control this. what we’re trying to do.”

Jon Baron, a former nonprofit executive and federal public servant, has touted his data-driven approach to state problems, including “targeted deterrents” that offer job pathways and counseling to violent offenders – and tougher penalties if they break the law again. He also offered high-quality tutoring for every struggling first and second-grader in the state, which he says shows data is working.

Moore noted that career politicians have had decades to solve state problems and failed. He promised to tackle childcare, crime, mental health and education with fairness in mind and to “address these issues with a sense of urgency that no one no one else will”.

He said that with rising costs and rising crime, people “feel unsafe, both in our communities and in our own skin.”

Perez touted his varied career path as a civil rights attorney, state and local official, political organizer and former secretary of labor, encouraging voters to “do their homework” on which candidates have proven themselves in the public service.

“If you want to know what someone did in the future, look at what they did in the past,” he said.

Jerome Segal, one of two Democratic candidates not included in the debate because they did not meet Maryland’s public television eligibility criteria, said Monday he was considering legal action to be excluded, but he did not specify which laws he believed were broken. The station then invited him to a separate interview to air later, to which he agreed. Eternal contestant Ralph Jaffe was also not invited.

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