Md. Democratic gubernatorial candidates clash over plan for TV, radio debates

April 30, 2014

The three major Democratic candidates for governor of Maryland publicly feuded Wednesday over how often they would debate, with two rivals threatening to hold a televised encounter in Baltimore without the front-runner, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.

The contentious day began with an early morning statement from Brown’s campaign that he had agreed to participate in two televised debates — including one next Wednesday — and one radio debate in advance of the June 24 primary.

Aides to Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery) said that schedule did not make good on an agreement among the campaigns to participate in three televised debates.

“We hope Lt. Gov. Brown and his campaign will reconsider their decision to back out of a third televised debate,” said Katie Hill, a Gansler spokeswoman.

Justin Schall, Brown’s campaign manager, said the three camps had definitely agreed on three debates but had not agreed that all three would be televised. He said the Gansler and Mizeur campaigns were “rewriting history.”

“They agreed to three debates, and we have scheduled three debates,” Schall said. “If they now want to change the agreement, they should at least have the courtesy to be honest about it and explain which of the three debates on the current schedule they want to cancel.”

The finger-pointing followed weeks of closed-door negotiations that, by most accounts, had proceeded in a surprisingly cordial fashion, given the bitter tenor of the primary campaign so far.

As of now, Brown, Gansler and Mizeur are scheduled to appear at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a televised debate hosted by WRC-TV (Channel 4) in Washington. “Meet the Press” host David Gregory is booked as the moderator.

The campaigns have agreed to a second televised debate on June 2, hosted by Maryland Public Television (Channel 22), that is expected to be broadcast statewide.

The Brown campaign said a third debate would be broadcast on Baltimore area radio station WOLB (1010 AM), on a date to be determined. Former state senator Larry Young (D-Baltimore) is scheduled to moderate, the campaign said.

The Gansler and Mizeur campaigns said their candidates also plan to meet for a televised debate in Baltimore hosted by WBFF (Channel 45) — with or without Brown.

“We hope Lt. Gov. Brown will join us, as we believe that the voters deserve to see and hear the candidates in as many venues as possible,” said a joint statement from the two campaigns.

Schall said Brown does not plan to participate in the WBFF debate.

Brown’s campaign also announced Wednesday that the three Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor will debate on NewsChannel 8’s “News Talk,” hosted by Bruce DePuyt. No date for that debate was given.

The gubernatorial hopefuls have participated in several forums, hosted by various interest groups. In most of those events, the candidates appeared on stage separately and have not interacted, as they are expected to do in the coming debates.

One such forum was to take place at the Silver Spring Civic Center on Wednesday night. Gansler and Mizeur planned to attend, organizers said, but Brown was not expected because of a family commitment.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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