In Lone Debate, Hogan Defends Progress But Jealous Wants More

In their only debate of the 2018 campaign, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and Democrat Benjamin T. Jealous clashed Monday on a range of issues, from health care and education to crime, transportation and the overall health of the Maryland economy. The popular incumbent repeatedly defended his record, while the challenger tried to make the case that Hogan has no vision and that the state could be doing better. Both men showed flashes of irritation, as Jealous bristled when Hogan suggested he doesn’t know how things are done in Maryland because he isn’t from here, and Hogan asserted that almost everything Jealous said about him was wrong. One of the most intense and potentially pivotal portions of the debate came when Jealous compared Republican attacks against him to the tactics of President Trump and to the Willie Horton ads that the GOP used to devastating effect in the 1988 presidential election. “You lie and you scare people,” Jealous scolded Hogan during a discussion on the shortage of correctional officers in state prisons, which Hogan turned into an attack on the Democrat’s criminal justice plan, arguing that Jealous would cut public safety budgets and let 30 percent of all violent offenders loose. Benjamin T. Jealous meets the press Monday after debating Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. at the studios of Maryland Public Television. Photo by Josh Kurtz  “Willie Horton and Donald Trump don’t have much to do with this,” Hogan replied. The debate will be broadcast statewide from 7-8 p.m. Monday on Maryland Public Television; on WBAL-TV and WBAL-AM in Baltimore; on WMDT-TV in Salisbury; WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C and also carried on C-SPAN. The debate also will be streamed at 7 p.m. on MPT.org/debate and on the websites of The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun. So there will be ample opportunities to view it. The two candidates did not so much disagree point-by-point on issues as outline starkly different visions of where the state is and where it ought to go. Hogan repeatedly talked about how much the state has improved under his watch – and did not hesitate to blame his predecessor, former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D), for things that still need fixing – but did not lay out grand policy proposals when given the opportunity to do so. “Maryland is in a much better place than it was four years ago by any standard whatsoever,” Hogan said. Jealous attempted to portray himself as the candidate with bold ideas, including Medicare for all, a $15 an hour minimum wage, and a dramatic increase on education spending. But he rarely had an opportunity to elucidate on the proposals, instead directing viewers to his campaign website – and was never asked how he intended to fund them. “When I actually tell the people I’m going to do something, my plan is there,” Jealous said. “It’s transparent.” That provided Hogan an opportunity to suggest, as his campaign has throughout the summer, that Jealous’ plans are unrealistic and unaffordable. “Your only plan is to double the state budget,” he told Jealous.  “…I can’t imagine what’s going to happen under a plan like yours.” Asked what they would do to close the achievement gap between white and minority students, Hogan did not directly answer but instead talked about the “record funding” he has provided to the schools and the “lockbox” proposal he supports for earmarking all casino revenue for education, which could account for an additional $4 billion in spending. Jealous outlined proposals to top Hogan’s mandated education spending with additional funds and said he plans to raise teachers’ salaries by 29 percent over seven years. Hogan attempted to poke a hole in the latter proposal, noting that teacher salaries are set on a county-by-county basis. “He has nothing to do with teacher salaries,” Hogan said, dismissively. “They don’t work for the governor. They are local employees. He has no ability to deliver on this promise whatsoever.” Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. meets the press Monday after debating Benjamin T. Jealous at the studios of Maryland Public Television. Photo by Josh Kurtz  Jealous repeatedly jumped on the fact that Maryland schools have fallen from No. 1 to No. 6 in national education ratings since the governor took office. Hogan replied that when O’Malley was governor, the state did not count the scores of children with developmental disabilities or English language deficiency on standardized tests. “Martin O’Malley cheated on the test scores,” he said. President Trump was never far from the candidates’ minds, and Jealous worked to compare Hogan to Trump when he could. He said Hogan “campaigned all over the state” with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos – when Hogan insisted he only accompanied her to one appearance in Montgomery County, where she read to elementary school students. Asked what they would say if they could spend a minute with Trump, Hogan replied, “I’ll tell him that he’s his own worst enemy and that he shouldn’t spend his time tweeting.” Hogan was then quick to note, “Mr. Jealous and I have one thing in common. Neither one of us endorsed or supported or voted for Donald Trump.” Jealous sought to tie Hogan to Trump administration policies on border security, immigration and charter schools. “I’d tell Donald Trump that the days of the governor of Maryland aiding and abetting your strategy are over,” he said. Mileah K. Kromer, a Goucher College political science professor, said both candidates scored points with voters. “I thought it was one of the best debates I’ve seen in a long time,” she said. “It was really exciting. It was such a clear contrast.” Kromer said Hogan did a good job defending his record but that Jealous’ remarks on criminal justice policy could attract traditional Democrats to his corner who have been reluctant to embrace him so far. “There is a difference between Democrats and Republicans in their approach to policing,” she said. Kromer also said the Maryland gubernatorial election must be viewed in the context of the chaos and dramatic daily headlines gripping the federal government. “Ultimately, it was clear that this election is about whether you’re satisfied with the way things are going or if you want dramatic change,” she said. Maryland Matters will have more coverage of the debate on our website as the day progresses.  jkurtz@marylandmatters.org

Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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