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

 

Maryland Governor’s Debate On TV Monday Night at 7

Promotional photos via Maryland Public Television

Promotional photos via Maryland Public Television

The three Democratic candidates for governor in Maryland will debate tonight on television. The debate will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. Monday on WBAL-TV Channel 11 in Baltimore, and on Maryland Public Television stations. The debate will be streaming live on the WBAL website, wbaltv.com, and the Maryland Public Television website, www.mpt.org

The Democratic candidates to replace Gov. Martin O’Malley are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney Gen. Douglas Gansler, and Del. Heather Mizeur. The debate moderator will be MPT’s David Salkin. The debate is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Maryland Public Television, and WBAL-TV.  It will be held at the MPT studio in Owings Mills.

Tonight’s Democratic debate represents the last, best hope for Mizeur and Ganzler to catch up with and pass Brown before the June 24 primary. Political observers believe Brown is running well ahead of Mizeur and Gansler, but the contest may be tightening.

For voters just tuning in to Maryland’s 2014 elections — which is most voters — this one-hour debate may be the only chance to compare the candidates side-by-side. And it’s probably the last opportunity, other than television advertising, for the candidates to make a favorable impression on voters. In the precious few minutes each candidate will have tonight, expect Mizeur and Ganzler to make their strongest case to distinguish themselves from Brown.

O’Malley cannot run again after serving two terms because of Maryland’s term limit for Governor. The term limit is even stricter in Virginia, which allows only one four-year term for governor.

You’ll be seeing a lot of Brown and Gansler on TV between now and the June 24 primary election. Both Gansler and Brown have ample war chests to fund television advertising. Mizeur also plans to advertise on TV, although her budget is smaller.

Mizeur hopes to score a breakthrough in tonight’s debate by focusing on issues such as the widening income divide between rich and poor.

“Heather will make Annapolis work for middle class families,” said Joanna Belanger, Mizeur’s campaign manager. “It’s prioritized the wealthy and big corporations for far too long.”

Meanwhile, four Republicans vying for the Republican nomination for governor debated today. The Republican debate will be aired on WBAL-TV and Maryland Public Television at 7 p.m. Friday night.

Today’s gubernatorial debates are expected to be the final joint debates between the candidates before the  primary on June 24. Early voting begins June 12. The deadline for registering to vote in the primary is tomorrow, Tuesday, June 3, at 9 p.m.

— John Hayden