By J. K. Schmid, Special to the AFRO
The first and only Maryland Gubernatorial Debate concluded Monday morning with many unanswered questions from the moderator, the panel, and even the candidates themselves.
Maryland Public Television (MPT) hosted the Republican incumbent Governor Larry Hogan and Democratic challenger Benjamin Jealous in its Owings Mills studio at 11 a.m. The AFRO and other publications were invited to the MPT visitor’s center and observed remotely via closed circuit television.
The candidates took questions from Ovetta Wiggins, The Washington Post, Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun, Tamela Baker, The Herald-Mail, and Ryan Eldredge, WMDT-TV; and Jeff Salkin, MPT, as moderator.
Hogan lost the debate.
In Hogan’s defense, it was lost before he took the podium. Ahead in the polls, with recent high-profile endorsements from trade unions and representatives in the public safety sector, and the incomparable power to promote his brand and agenda as governor, Hogan risked a great deal in opening himself to questioning from the panel, and direct criticism from Jealous.
Jealous took full advantage.
The contender came at Hogan from every angle. On education, Hogan was criticized for his inability to keep schools heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. On public safety, Hogan was assailed over Maryland’s opioid crisis, the rising murder rate across the state-not just in Baltimore City-and failing public transportation. On fiscal policy, Jealous came after Hogan on the looting of casino funds earmarked for education, subpar teacher pay and flagging economic growth compared to local and national averages.
Hogan touted his administration’s record funding (budgeted by the General Assembly and Senate) as sign of his commitment to education, blaming the decline in test scores on misrepresentations in Prince George’s County. Hogan acknowledged his delay on a campaign promise to act immediately on the opioid crisis, but considers himself still the first governor to take state-level action. Hogan laid the casino funds issue at the feet of the legislature, the teacher pay issue on individual local board of educations, and enumerated his raw numbers of jobs added to Maryland’s economy.
“There’s still much work to be done,” the governor said.
“I came here with a simple question,” Jealous told reporters at the end of the debate. “On issues like transportation, and education, if we have record funding, why don’t we have record results?”