The Maryland gubernatorial campaign headed into its final week Monday with the candidates scuffling over guns and the economy and a new poll showing signs that the race remains more competitive than originally expected.
Republican Larry Hogan started his day at a shuttered solar-panel manufacturing plant in Frederick, which he used as a backdrop for a new round of charges that the state’s economy has failed under Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.
The firm, BP, closed its plant in 2012, cutting more than 300 jobs. It cited high costs and its intention to move manufacturing to China and India.
“Maryland continues to get worse every month,” Hogan said, asserting that unemployment has “almost doubled” during the eight-year tenure of O’Malley and Brown. Hogan also said Maryland lost 25,000 manufacturing jobs during that period and ranks second to last of all states in favorable business climate.
According to the Maryland Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation, unemployment was 3.4 percent in 2007 and surged to 7.9 percent in 2010, the height of the recession. Since then it has dipped gradually, reaching 5.9 percent at the end of September. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show almost 29,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the state since 2007.
Brown campaign manager Justin Schall said Maryland has created “17,000 private-sector jobs in the last 12 months,” but did not specify what kinds of jobs.
And while Hogan cited a survey by Chief Executive magazine for his claim that Maryland had the 49th-worst business environment among the states, Maryland actually ranked 41 in that survey, ahead of New York and New Jersey, among other states.
“Larry Hogan continues to root for failure,” Schall’s statement said. “Anthony Brown is the only candidate in this race who has released a five-point jobs plan.”
Hogan continues to be hammered by Democrats for his refusal to release a candidate questionnaire he filled out for the National Rifle Association. His answers earned him a grade of A-minus and the group’s endorsement. But Hogan — a gun-rights supporter who has said he would not roll back Maryland’s landmark 2013 gun-control law, has declined repeatedly to make those answers public.
A PAC created by Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, will start airing ads Tuesday in the Washington region questioning Hogan’s decision.
“We believe the NRA’s endorsement of Mr. Hogan is a huge liability for him and want to make sure voters are aware of it,” said Howard Wolfson, a senior adviser to the Independence USA PAC, which plans to spend about $500,000 to air the ads.
Hogan spokesman Adam Dubitsky called the ad an attempt to “distract struggling Marylanders” from Brown’s economic and tax record.
Hogan got a boost Monday from a new poll. The survey of 822 registered voters by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies suggested that Brown was ahead by two percentage points (46-44), within the poll’s margin of error of 3.5 percent.
The poll was commissioned by the “Maryland, My Maryland” PAC, an independent group that supports Hogan. But it was carried out by Gonzales, a respected and nonpartisan firm. The poll projects voter turnout among African Americans, a key voting bloc for Brown, at 25 percent. Greater turnout in the black community would give Brown an additional boost, which is why his campaign has launched an extensive get-out-the-vote effort. African Americans accounted for 28 percent of the Maryland electorate in 2010, the last year Maryland held a gubernatorial contest, according to statistics kept by the Census Bureau.
Both campaigns are bringing in marquee-name surrogates to help them make their final arguments to voters. Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to appear with Brown on Thursday at the University of Maryland. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Hogan will visit the Honey Bee Diner in Glen Burnie on Tuesday. It is Christie’s third visit in recent weeks.