On the evening of Monday, Sept. 24, incumbent Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and his Democratic opponent, Ben Jealous, debated for the first and only time on a televised debate, hosted by Maryland Public Television (MPT). The two candidates fought over issues ranging from job growth and education to transportation and Maryland’s opioid crisis.
During the first question, Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post mentioned that “although the economy has rebounded, wage growth remains stagnant in Maryland,” and proceeded to ask Gov. Hogan what specific policies he would enact to grow the private sector and to raise wages. Hogan replied quickly stating that “wages are up in Maryland, all across the board, up 9%, so you’re not right on the facts there.” Hogan proceeded to defend the economic impact of his administration. “My first year as Governor, we got more people hired than any time in the past 15 years,” Hogan stated. Jealous responded, stating “actually, I think that Ms. Wiggins is right on her facts, Governor.”
“I don’t think so,” interrupted Hogan. Jealous continued to argue that Maryland’s economic growth has not been as glamorous as Hogan makes it out to be. “We have the lowest job growth, the lowest income growth in the region,” Jealous said. Jealous stated that if Maryland had the same job growth as Virginia, a state with a job growth rate lower than the national average, Maryland would have 40,000 more jobs. Jealous said that he plans to use the Governor’s office to invest in small businesses, criticizing Hogan’s lack of action in keeping Discovery, Inc in Maryland.
“That sounded really good, but not a single word you said was true,” Gov. Hogan said, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. The candidates spent much of the debate arguing about what the real facts were, and whether Maryland was on track to succeed or if it was falling short of its goals. On gun control, Jealous touted his ‘F’ Rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), and argued for stricter measures on gun control, such as banning bump stocks on semi-automatic rifles. Jealous mentioned that he met with students of Great Mills High School (GMHS) after the shooting that occured in March of 2018. Finally, Jealous made a point that solving gun violence was a public health issue. “In our schools, we don’t need more guns, we need more social workers inside colleges to work with young people who are experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Jealous.
Hogan, who holds a ‘C’ rating from the NRA, also argued that he was a “strong supporter of tougher laws to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and people with a criminal background.” Hogan also met with students from GMHS, where he told student that he would reject an endorsement from the NRA. Hogan stated that “we have some of the toughest gun laws in America, but I’ve moved to make them even tougher.”
On mass incarceration, Hogan stated that during his tenure as governor he “cleaned up” the state prison system, which he argued that under former Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration was
run by “gangs and criminals.” Hogan criticized Jealous’ plan to reduce spending on the prison system, stating that Maryland passed a criminal justice reform act that reduced the prison population more than every other state and released many incarcerated individuals with simple drug possession and misdemeanor charges, and that Jealous’ plan would release violent offenders, murderers, and rapists onto the streets.
Jealous refuted this statement by saying“Governor, from Willie Horton to DonaldTrump, your party plays by the same playbook,”referencing “hateful” advertisements that “try to scare people, because you don’t
have a plan.” Jealous stated that as CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he worked with Governor Nathan Deal (R-Georgia) and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) to put through strategies that reduce crime. “On your watch, murders are up in our state to…34% when you don’t include Baltimore City, over 50% when you do include Baltimore City,” Jealous attacked. Similar dialogues occurred with issues such as the opioid epidemic, where Jealous pointed out pharmaceutical companies that need to be held responsible for the opioid epidemic have contributed financially to Hogan’s campaign.
Hogan retorted with his record on combating the opioid crisis, that he immediately created a task force on the issue, and that the previous O’Malley administration had swept the problem under the rug. On transportation, Hogan boasted of his record investment in public transit. Jealous criticized the Hogan administration’s cancellation of the Baltimore Red Line project, which would have run from Woodlawn in West Baltimore to Johns Hopkins Bayview in southeast Baltimore.
“It seems like Jealous and Hogan are living in very, very different Marylands, and the debate kind of reflected that” Cecile Walton, ‘19, told TPN, “Hogan spent his time boasting about how much money we have, and how many awards and accolades we have, and Ben Jealous talked about the opposite. He gave plans to fix things. He talked about the public transit system in Baltimore that’s failing. He talked about how we need to work with community leaders to make communities safer.”
Monday’s debate was the first and only gubernatorial debate for this general election cycle. Jealous faces a rough competition from Gov.
Hogan. According to a recent poll by Mason Dixon, Hogan is currently supported by 52% of voters, while Jealous is supported by only 37%. Since his election in 2014, Hogan has been known as a popular, moderate Republican governor in heavily Democratic Maryland.
The general election will be held on November 6, 2018. Voters must be registered to vote by October 16th. In addition to voting for Governor, one United States Senate seat and all House of Representative seats are open for reelection as well as several Maryland House, Senate, and judiciary candidates.