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The three leading Democrats running for governor in Maryland clashed over taxes, jobs, the environment, and electability during their second full debate last night outside of Baltimore.
WIth Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown remaining in the lead in polls, the opening question of the night at the Maryland Public Television studio focused on electability. Given that Democrats hold such a large voter registration advantage in Maryland, the winner of their primary will be a heavy, heavy favorite to win in the fall.
Attorney General Doug Gansler noted what happened the last time a lieutenant governor was the Democratic nominee in 2002, when a Republican won for the first time in more than 30 years.
"When Bob Ehrlich beat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. What we bring to this race is somebody who has run governments. Who's been elected four times by the people of Maryland, both Democrats and Republicans," Gansler said.
Gansler kept up his attacks on Brown, who turned in a much smoother performance than during the first full debate last month in College Park. Brown said claims by Gansler that "Virginia is cleaning Maryland's clock" on job growth are false.
"The last 12 months, Maryland created close to 25,000 jobs. Virginia, 5,000. Not 5,000 gained. They lost 5,000 jobs," Brown said.
Gansler responded in kind.
"We're getting our clocks cleaned by Virginia. The evidence is right there," Gansler said. "They have a billion dollar surplus every year. We have almost a billion dollar deficit every year when the delegates and senators go back to Annapolis."
Brown also faced new questions about his role in Maryland's failed healthcare exchange website, part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Brown said he headed the council that oversaw all parts of the law's implementation — not just the exchange — but Medicaid expansion and other reforms.
Brown said that in hindsight, he would change some things.
"I'd go back and say appoint me as a member of the health benefits exchange. Maybe even the chairman of the exchange," Brown said. "But that's not role I served. But that doesn't mean I didn't have a responsibility."
Candidates were given longer times to respond to questions, which benefitted Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur. She gave the most detailed answers on Chesapeake Bay cleanup, saying the oyster population needs rebuilt after decades of overharvesting.
"You've heard it before. The oysters are the kidneys of the Bay. A large adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water in one day," she said.
And creating a minimum wage of over $16 dollars per hour, saying the wage hike passed this year is much too slow.
"The next governor will be running for re-election before it gets to $10.10 per hour. And she's not going to stand for that," Mizeur said.
The trio holds their final debate on radio later this week.