Ho­gan, Jeal­ous square off in lone elec­tion de­bate

Gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates bring ten­sion to stage

The Calvert Recorder - - Community Forum - By BROOKS DUBOSE Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice Josh Kurtz of Mary­land Mat­ters con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Mary­land’s Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan and his Demo­cratic chal­lenger, Ben Jeal­ous, on Mon­day painted starkly dif­fer­ent por­traits of both each other and the di­rec­tion they would take the state in the lone de­bate of the 2018 Mary­land gov­er­nor’s race.

The two traded ver­bal blows, get­ting testy with each other within min­utes and at times talk­ing over each other when ar­gu­ing over the health of the Mary­land econ­omy, ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing and prison re­form, among other sub­jects, in the hour-long de­bate.

De­spite the ten­sion, there was no clear win­ner, ac­cord­ing to Mileah Kromer, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at Goucher Col­lege. She said it was im­por­tant for the Jeal­ous cam­paign, which is los­ing by dou­ble dig­its, a re­cent poll showed, to have a strong per­for­mance.

“I think they cer­tainly did,” Kromer said, “but just like polls, this is a snap­shot in time and it’s all about the spin af­ter it.”

A Goucher poll last week showed Ho­gan with a 22 per­cent­age point ad­van­tage over Jeal­ous with less than two months un­til elec­tion day Nov. 6.

John Dedie, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at the Com­mu­nity Col­lege of Bal­ti­more County, viewed the de­bate as a draw.

“In a draw, Jeal­ous doesn’t win,” Dedie told the Univer­sity of Mary­land’s Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice. “When you’re the in­cum­bent, you’re on de­fense. Did [Ho­gan] play de­fense well? Yes, he did.”

While Jeal­ous per­formed well, he missed an op­por­tu­nity to speak to un­de­cided vot­ers about pro­gres­sive poli­cies he has cam­paigned on, like le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana, Dedie said.

“It seemed like Jeal­ous was talk­ing to the 32 per­cent of peo­ple sup­port­ing him and not enough to the 18 per­cent of the peo­ple he needs to win,” he said.

As Kromer sug­gested, the spin be­gan im­me­di­ately af­ter the can­di­dates left the stage.

The Mary­land Demo­cratic party chair, Kath­leen Matthews, de­scribed the pop­u­lar Repub­li­can in­cum­bent as “back on his heels” and “ir­ri­tated with be­ing chal­lenged” while laud­ing Jeal­ous, 45, as an en­er­getic can­di­date with “a bold vi­sion.”

Ho­gan, 62, dis­missed the no­tion that he was on his heels, and said his first and only show­down with Jeal­ous clearly de­fined their con­trast­ing ap­proaches to im­prov­ing the state.

“It’s a ques­tion about whether we want to keep mov­ing for­ward or go in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion,” Ho­gan said. “I think most peo­ple feel that we are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion. Mr. Jeal­ous seems to dis­agree, but I don’t know how many peo­ple agree with that.”

Ho­gan char­ac­ter­ized Jeal­ous as an out­sider from Cal­i­for­nia not well versed in the state’s poli­cies, and said his plans on ed­u­ca­tion and health — in­clud­ing a 29 per­cent in­crease in teacher salaries, ex­pand­ing uni­ver­sal pre-K and es­tab­lish­ing Medi­care for all — were un­re­al­is­tic.

“It’s just like you’re liv­ing in a dream world,” said Ho­gan, who also pointed out that teacher pay is set lo­cally.

Jeal­ous bris­tled at be­ing called an out­sider, ex­plain­ing that his white fa­ther and black mother had to leave the state be­fore he was born.

“I didn’t stay here be­cause my par­ents mar­riage was il­le­gal in 1966,” Jeal­ous said. “I came back here ev­ery sum­mer be­cause this is home.”

And Jeal­ous crit­i­cized the gov­er­nor for fail­ing to ar­tic­u­late a plan to im­prove Mary­land’s econ­omy and school sys­tem.

“I think the peo­ple got a clear pic­ture that the gov­er­nor has no plan to move us for­ward, [and] that I do,” Jeal­ous said.

Ho­gan leaned on his fis­cal record, call­ing Mary­land’s eco­nomic turn­around “one of the best in the coun­try” in the decade fol­low­ing the last re­ces­sion.

“Tak­ing credit years af­ter the re­ces­sion is like tak­ing credit for the sun ris­ing,” Jeal­ous said.

Ho­gan noted the record fund­ing he has al­lot­ted for ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing and took credit for an ex­pected $4 bil­lion ear­marked for ed­u­ca­tion from casino rev­enue, should vot­ers ap­prove a ref­er­en­dum in No­vem­ber.

“Why big fund­ing but no big re­sults?” Jeal­ous asked, not­ing that Mary­land schools have dropped in stan­dard­ized test scores un­der Ho­gan. The gov­er­nor blamed the pre­vi­ous, Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tion for not ac­cu­rately mea­sur­ing test scores.

“We didn’t bring the schools down from No. 1 to No. 6,” said Ho­gan. “They never were No. 1, we were just the first ones to be hon­est about it.”

When asked how he would ad­dress prison guard short­ages in the state’s cor­rec­tional sys­tem, Jeal­ous said he would re­duce the prison pop­u­la­tion by a third.

Mary­land’s prison pop­u­la­tion has al­ready been re­duced by nearly 10 per­cent, Ho­gan said, and called Jeal­ous’s pro­posal a “down­right dan­ger­ous” plan that would “fire thou­sands of cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers and put thou­sands of dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals out on the streets.”

Jeal­ous bris­tled at this char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, ar­gu­ing that his plan will be done safely.

“From Wil­lie Hor­ton to Don­ald Trump, your party plays by the same play­book. You lie and you scare peo­ple,” Jeal­ous said, in­vok­ing a con­victed felon who was the sub­ject of pres­i­den­tial po­lit­i­cal ads from 1988 used to stoke fears of vi­o­lent crime.

“I don’t have any­thing to do with Wil­lie Hor­ton,” Ho­gan said.

Asked af­ter­ward whether an­other de­bate could be sched­uled be­fore Elec­tion Day, Ho­gan said, “There’s not any chance of that hap­pen­ing.”

Kromer said both candi- dates scored points with vot­ers.

“I thought it was one of the best de­bates I’ve seen in a long time,” she said. “It was re­ally ex­cit­ing. It was such a clear con­trast.”

Kromer said Ho­gan did a good job de­fend­ing his record but that Jeal­ous’ re­marks on crim­i­nal jus­tice pol­icy could at­tract tra­di­tional Democrats to his cor­ner who have been re­luc­tant to em­brace him so far. “There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween Democrats and Repub­li­cans in their ap­proach to polic­ing,” she said.

Kromer also said the Mary­land gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion must be viewed in the con­text of the chaos and dra­matic daily head­lines grip­ping the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. “Ul­ti­mately, it was clear that this elec­tion is about whether you’re sat­is­fied with the way things are go­ing or if you want dra­matic change,” she said.

The other two gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates on the bal­lot — Lib­er­tar­ian Shawn Quinn of Lusby and Green Party nom­i­nee Ian Sch­lak­man of Bal­ti­more — were not in­vited to the de­bate.

MARY­LAND PUB­LIC TELE­VI­SION PHOTO BY LARRY CANNER

Demo­cratic chal­lenger Ben Jeal­ous shakes hands with in­cum­bent Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan at the lone 2018 Mary­land gu­ber­na­to­rial de­bate on Mon­day in Owings Mills.

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