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Five take-aways from Maryland Democratic lieutenant governor hopefuls’ debate

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (left), Del. Heather Mizeur and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown debated on May 7. Their running mates did the same on May 27. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

With the second televised Maryland Democratic gubernatorial debate just hours away — and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown already a no-show — we thought it was time for a pop quiz: Can you even name all the gubernatorial hopefuls? And now for the real test: Name the candidates for lieutenant governor. Little more difficult, huh?

The three major Democratic candidates for this second-in-command gig (answer: the Rev. Delman Coates, Del. Jolene Ivey of Prince George’s County and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman) gathered at the News Channel 8 studio in Rosslyn on Tuesday morning for their first and only debate. Here are five things that jumped out to me:

1) Ivey can attack — both professionally and personally. Ivey was by far the most lively candidate sitting behind the news desk. She introduced herself as “the only mother in the race” and then fiercely defended her running mate, Attorney General Douglas Gansler. Over the course of an hour, she demanded the chance for rebuttals, rolled her eyes, smirked and unleased a series of zingers.

On Brown’s kids: “You know, Anthony Brown, he thinks it’s okay to have bad teachers in front of children, and that’s probably because his children aren’t in the public schools, but mine are.”

On an investigation into the troubled online health insurance marketplace: “They’re putting their heads in the sand because they don’t want you to know that Anthony Brown was a failed leader on this effort. ... They don’t want the report to come out until after the election. Isn’t that interesting?”

On Gansler’s character: “He’s been married to the same woman, 22 years — not everybody can say that.” (Brown, who is divorced from his first wife, remarried May 27, 2012.)

2) For just now getting into politics, Coates held his own. Coates isn’t a stranger to public speaking, as he is the senior pastor of a mega-church in Prince George’s. But running with Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery) is his first foray into politics. The moderators referred to him as “Reverend Coates” during the debate, although they slipped up a few times and said “Delegate Coates” instead. He was confident and calm as he rattled through campaign stances and drew attention to the differences between the three campaigns, especially on the issue of legalizing marijuana: “Here in the state of Maryland, when it comes to good public policy, we don’t wait to follow others, we lead. We led on the Dream Act. We led on marriage equality. When it comes to good public policy, we ought to lead this conversation.”

3) Ulman stuck to the script. And that script seemed to be this: Enthusiastically promote the accomplishments of Gov. Martin O’Malley and Brown, while maintaining that there’s always room for improvement and taking some jabs at Gansler. For example: When a moderator asked the candidates how they would combat corruption that can sometimes breed in states where only one party controls nearly all of the power, Ulman responded that Gansler had proposed getting rid of the corruption-stopping state prosecutor’s office — and then launched into talking about how the O’Malley administration held down college tuition rates while Virginia students saw rounds of hikes.

4) The job of the lieutenant governor? To support the governor. Other than the reading of the biographies of each lieutenant governor candidate at the beginning of the debate, there was little discussion of their qualifications and records. Instead, they mostly talked about their running mates.

5) Apparently, nothing has really surprised these three on the campaign trail. At the end of the debate, each candidate had 10 seconds to say what has surprised him or her the most. They were encouraged to “have a little fun.” Ivey said every voter in the state — regardless of party affiliation — wants the same things. Coates said that voters want elected officials who share their values. And Ulman said that Maryland is beautiful with a rich history.

Jenna Johnson is a political reporter who is covering the 2016 presidential campaign.



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