Gubernatorial candidates Wes Moore and Rep. Dan Cox (R-MD-04) came together on Oct. 12 to face off against each other in their first one-on-one debate. The debate featured discussions about various topics affecting Marylanders, like inflation, the racial wealth gap, and abortions. (Photos by Larry Canner Photography)

By Tashi McQueen, AFRO Political Writer,
Report For America Corps Member,

Maryland Public Television held the only scheduled one-on-one gubernatorial debate between Democratic nominee Wes Moore and Republican nominee Rep. Dan Cox (R-MD-04) on Oct. 12.

The debate allowed them to prove their credibility and showcase their agendas and aspirations for Maryland just ahead of the midterm elections. Both candidates came out with something to prove, though it may have been a losing battle for Cox, as he is down in the polls by 32 points.

Health Disparities

Through Moore’s motto, “leave no one behind,” Moore said he would make sure health disparities are addressed if elected to office. The Army vet promised to ensure that equity is a crucial framework in addressing health care and pledged to help seniors “age in place and dignity.”

“Every community should be seen and heard,”  said Moore. “The reality is, many communities have not been.”

Cox said he would provide community health clinics and work to expand health care across the state.

 Legal Marijuana

AFRO News Editor, Alexis Taylor, asked about equity in the legal marijuana industry, which made $600 million last year, according to reports from the state’s regulators. Taylor asked the candidates what they would do to ensure that African-American entrepreneurs in Maryland are included in the lucrative legal marijuana industry as business owners. 

Moore acknowledged the issue and said his administration would ensure legal marijuana rollouts are equitable from licensing to paraphernalia providers. The author also plans to consider the overt criminalization of the Black community.

“We need to get back to fairness and equal justice under the law,” said Cox. “Everyone should be treated equally.”

Cox supports the release of those criminalized for small possessions of Marijuana, which President Biden recently motioned for, and ensuring a path forward for them to reestablish themselves.

Inflation and the racial wealth gap

Taylor sparked a conversation about the racial wealth gap in Maryland, especially during a time when inflation is causing the cost of food and gas to soar. She noted how studies show that Black Americans make “$0.71 for every White dollar,” and asked what each man would do to address the inequity in pay.

Moore acknowledged the matter as a long-time problem that needs to be addressed through meaningful steps. 

“The fact that we have an eight-to-one wealth gap is real,” said Moore. “We have to focus on making pathways for work, wealth and an education system that teaches young people how to be not only employees but employers.”

About reparations, Cox said he would ensure those who lost their businesses and wealth due to Covid-19 lockdowns get back on track.

Abortions, vaccines, the government and you 

Tracee Wilkins, a local reporter unaffiliated with the AFRO, deepened the conversation on health care and reproductive rights. She questioned Cox about his refusal to allow the government oversight on his body regarding vaccines but approved it over female bodies about abortions. 

Wilkins highlighted Cox’s support of 14 bills restricting abortion access during his time as a delegate and reminded viewers his “reason for running” was to oppose vaccine mandates. 

Moore said he considers abortion a health right and wants Maryland to be a “safe haven” for abortion rights. He believes women should be able to make abortion decisions with their doctors.

Elections and Jan. 6

Throughout Cox’s campaign, he has been called out for his engagement in events pertaining to Jan. 6, 2021. At the Maryland Gubernatorial Forum sponsored by the MSU Spokesman, Cox admitted that he bought tickets for himself and his children to attend the Trump rally that later turned violent. He continued to deny funding busses to the rally despite his tweet announcing his involvement.

“I am co-hosting two buses to the Million MAGA March/Rally with the Frederick County Conservative Club in support of  President Trump @realDonaldTrump on Jan. 6, 2021, to #StoptheSteal  Demand NO #ChinaBiden – no #CCP #Fraud @Mike_Pence,” said Cox.

Cox’s push for the idea of distrust in elections could be a serious issue for Maryland if he’s elected. Trump’s ideals have already created a movement toward restricting voting accessibility across the U.S. Restricting voting laws will severely impact Blacks and other minorities.

Moore believes there are no current issues with the Maryland election system. He called Cox’s distrust rhetoric “dangerous.”

Cox continued to say he would accept results that are “fair and uphold the constitution” but refused to say if he would accept the results explicitly.

American political divisions have heightened since Trump’s presidency, so this possible division is a pressing concern for all Marylanders.

Election day is Nov. 8. Early voting is from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3.

Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members!  Join here!