Maryland’s gubernatorial race is rapidly picking up steam. Primary elections are less than three months away and the general election will soon follow. For most of the men and women who have declared their candidacy the primary election will mark the end of their campaign. As a result, many campaigns will begin, if they have not already, to shift their focus from fundraising to voter appeal.
The SMCM College Democrats, in conjunction with the Center for the Study of Democracy, has invited three of the most prominent Democratic Party candidates to campus to give talks and answer questions. In doing so, the club hopes to stimulate interest in the gubernatorial election while also offering these candidates an opportunity to promote their campaigns.
On Monday, Feb. 17, Attorney General Doug Gansler came to the campus to give an informal talk and meet with members of the College Democrats. The talk was held in Glendenning Annex and lasted about an hour. With the exception of his short introduction, Gansler relied on questions from his audience to direct topics and subject matter. These questions ranged from broad concerns such as taxes to specific issues regarding welfare recipient urine tests.
With regards to the Maryland economy, Gansler asserted that the state has two primary industries that it should focus on cultivating: life sciences and cyber security. He pointed out that “no other state has NIH (National Institute of Health) and the NSA (National Security Agency) like we do, which makes us very attractive to companies in those industries; it’s a big advantage for us.” Gansler indicated that Maryland should try to capitalize on advantages such as these in its attempts to attract businesses.
Despite his optimism, Gansler had big problems with a trend that he described as “tech transfer”. As he described it: “money comes in for research and development, products come out. But then, the people who invented those products tend to leave the state to start their private companies and open up production.” Gansler identified this trend as one of the most pressing issues for Maryland’s economy. As he puts it, Maryland already benefits from invention but needs to find a way to hold on to the products of invention; businesses and jobs.
Questions about Gansler’s opinion on the proposed expansion of the Dominion facility at Cove Point led into an extended talk regarding Gansler’s positions on environmental regulation. In the specific case of Cove Point, which has become something of a hot-button issue at the College as well as the surrounding county, Gansler said he would reserve his opinion but keep an open mind until more information becomes available. Specifically, he claimed to be waiting for an upcoming environmental impact report to be released.
In addition to economic and environmental issues, Gansler had much to say on social issues. In this regard, most of his criticism was leveled at prisons and minority achievement. Specifically, he felt that the state could do more to reduce incarceration and recidivism rates as well as the minority achievement gap, which he cited as being the second worst in the nation. In both cases, his proposed solutions were based on improving education. He argued for fairly conventional improvements to failing public schools; better teachers, better facilities. However, his goals for prisoners were more innovative. First, he argued for better job training and placement programs outside of prison. Second, he argued for considerable improvements to education within prisons that would, as he put it, “enable prisoners to leave prison already equipped with the tools they need to become employed.”
Generally speaking, Gansler seemed well received by his audience. Junior John Holtzman, a self-described ardent supporter of competitor Delegate Heather Mizeur, said that he was “impressed, but concerned about [Gansler’s] responses to questions about the environment.” First-year Madeline Edelstein said she “enjoyed the talk, but felt unconvinced.” Her opinion is likely shared by other undecided voters who, according to a poll by The Baltimore Sun, make up approximately 40 percent of registered Democrats. This considerable margin indicates that the primary is still hotly contested, despite Lt. Governor Anthony Brown’s considerable lead, 21 points according to the same poll by The Sun, over his competitors.
According to College Democrats President Alice Mutter, the club hopes to work with the Center for the Study of Democracy to bring all three leading Democratic candidates, Brown, Gansler, and Mizeur, to campus before the end of the semester. At the time of writing, Heather Mizeur is scheduled to be on campus for an event Friday, Mar. 7.