The first of three debates between Maryland’s leading candidates for governor will air tonight at 7 — but reporters received a sneak-peak Tuesday morning during the taping at a Baltimore television station.
So if you tune in Tuesday evening (see the bottom of this post for directions on how to do that), here are five things that you might want to watch and listen for:
1) Notice that the candidates present vastly different takes on Maryland.
Throughout the debate, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, the Democratic nominee, listed off all of the wonderful things that have happened in Maryland since he and Gov. Martin O’Malley took command nearly eight years ago: the public school system is one of the best in the country, tuition at public colleges and universities has not rocketed up, the rate of violent crime has gone down, the pay gap between men and women has decreased and the state kept its AAA bond rating, despite the difficult recession.
Larry Hogan, the Republican nominee and an Anne Arundel County businessman, presents a vastly different take on the state, warning that Maryland is “way off track.” Marylanders saw more than 40 new taxes or fees during the O’Malley-Brown administration, he said, while the unemployment rate remains high and thousands of small businesses closed or moved to states with friendlier regulations, policies and incentives.
Which description of Maryland do you think is most accurate? That’s a question that both candidates hope will influence your decision on how to vote.
2) Try to count the number of times that Brown promises to not increase taxes.
Over the course of an hour, I counted at least six. This isn’t a new promise, but it’s one that Brown has been making much more often and vocally as the election nears.
A Washington Post- University of Maryland poll released Monday found that the race has narrowed, and Brown now holds a 9-point lead over Hogan. The top issue that voters were worried about? Taxes.
As Brown made these promises, Hogan often fired back that it’s not enough to keep taxes where they are — Maryland needs to get rid of some of them.
3) Be warned: The candidates are going to agree with each other a lot.
This is something that surprised me during the debate — and it happened a number of times.
Brown was the most aggressive agreer: He sided with Hogan in agreeing on the need for tax relief, although they disagree on who should get it first. Brown also agreed with the notion that every child deserves a world-class education, that state government needs to cut spending, that the business climate must improve and that an independent commission should set congressional district lines rather than politicians.
Hogan said that he and Brown agree “for the most part” that the influx of undocumented immigrant children at the border with Mexico is a humanitarian crisis and that pre-kindergarten classes are helpful to children. He also gave Brown a shout-out for his work in combating domestic violence. (During the debate, Hogan wore a massive pink and purple ribbon on his lapel to raise awareness of breast cancer and domestic violence.)
4) There are lots of accusations lobbed back and forth, but pay attention to which ones the candidates ignore.
Throughout the debate, Hogan dropped a bunch of zingers.
“There he goes again, confusing facts,” Hogan said after Brown accused him of being anti-pre-kindergarten. When Brown skewered Hogan’s cost-savings plan, the Republican fired back: “Well, first of all, almost everything that the lieutenant governor just said wasn’t true.” And in discussing the environment, Hogan said: “Well, that all sounded good, but a lot of it was nonsense.”
Hogan explained why Brown was wrong on some charges, but he did not directly respond when Brown accused him of privately telling “extreme” gun-rights activists that he would use executive orders to roll back some gun-control measures — something that Hogan has publicly said he would not do. (Hogan told reporters after the debate that he “did not” make such promises.) And Brown repeatedly said that Hogan supported cutting $450 million in school construction funds. (After the debate, Hogan told reporters: “I don’t know what he’s talking about.“)
Brown didn’t directly respond to all attacks either, including accusations from Hogan that 8,000 small businesses have closed or left Maryland, that the O’Malley-Brown administration raided funds set aside for environmental programs like restoring the bay, and that the administration has done nothing to address a heroin overdose epidemic.
5) Do you sense any lightheartedness or humor? We didn’t.
This was an intense debate that focused on a number of serious issues — taxes, the economy, job creation, violent crime, issues of interest to women and determining who is responsible for restoring the Chesapeake Bay. There was no joking around.
Plan to watch the debate? Here’s how:
In the Baltimore area, you can watch the debate on the area’s CBS station — WJZ-TV, Channel 13 — starting at 7 p.m. The station will also stream the debate on its Web site, CBSBaltimore.com. Maryland Public Television will also carry the debate at 7 p.m.