Maryland Governor’s Debate, First Impressions


Promotional photos via Maryland Public Television

Promotional photos via Maryland Public Television

ONE. The debate was way too short. One hour is not enough. The candidates sometimes had to cut their answers short, and concluding statements were cut to less than 60 seconds. When a baseball game or football game is televised, we don’t set an arbitrary time limit. We cover the whole game, even if it goes into extra innings or overtime.

TWO. Was it a coincidence that both Anthony Brown and Douglas Gansler tried to associate themselves with Heather Mizeur’s response in at least one or two cases each? (Note: All three are Democrats. A separate debate was held for Republicans.)

THREE. Mizeur is the only candidate supporting immediate legalization and regulation of marijuana. She said Maryland could raise money by taxing marijuana to pay for early childhood education. The other two aren’t ready yet. They want to wait and see how legalization works in Washington State and Colorado.

FOUR. A clear separation on tax policy. Gansler repeatedly advocates reducing the corporate income tax to make Maryland more competitive with other states in attracting business. Mizeur wants to cut taxes for 90 percent of ordinary people, keep the corporate income tax and close the loopholes, reinstate the millionaire’s tax and retain the estate tax. Brown prefers to hold out for “comprehensive tax reform,” not try to do it piecemeal. He promised to appoint a commission to propose tax reform in time for the 2016 General Assembly. And he indicated that small businesses need tax relief more than major corporations. Mizeur promised no estate tax “giveaway,” Brown promised no corporate “giveaway.”

FIVE. Gansler attacked a culture of special interests and lobbyists in Annapolis. He called Mizeur a former lobbyist, and he charged that the Brown campaign is funded by special interests. Mizeur pointed out that her campaign is the only one that opted for public funding.

SIX. Mizeur is the strongest proponent of universal early childhood education. Brown said he was closer to Mizeur’s position than Gansler’s, and Gansler tried to associate himself with Mizeur’s position on early childhood education, as well.

I can’t pick a winner here. These are professional  politicians who have answered questions and repeated their positions many times before. They’re pretty good at it. And I doubt that any one debate is likely to change the outcome of an election. Unfortunately, I think TV advertising is more likely to turn the outcome of an election.

For what it’s worth, I thought Heather Mizeur had a calmer stage presence and smoother delivery than  the other two. Both Brown and Gansler looked tense and tried to talk too fast to squeeze words into the limited time. Gansler stumbled on his words several times, but no big deal.

Brown continues to appear to be the clear frontrunner.

— John Hayden


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