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Larry Hogan, Ben Jealous square off in only scheduled election debate in Maryland governor’s race

September 24, 2018

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan defended his economic record Monday and slammed Democratic opponent Ben Jealous for offering what Mr. Hogan described as expensive and dangerous policy proposals in areas such as health care and criminal justice.

Mr. Jealous, meanwhile, said the state hasn’t made enough progress under Mr. Hogan’s leadership in areas such as the economy, education, and transportation, and that he’s prepared to make bold changes to do so.

The two candidates squared off Monday in a debate in which they both talked over one another at times and accused each other of misrepresentations.

It was the first and only general election debate scheduled for the 2018 Maryland governor’s race. Maryland Public Television hosted the debate at its building in Owings Mills.

Mr. Hogan, who is seeking re-election as a Republican in the deep-blue state, said Maryland is in a better place after nearly four years of his leadership and at one point said it sounded like Mr. Jealous was living in a “dream world.”

Mr. Hogan said Mr. Jealous’s policy proposals, such as a Medicare-for-all health care system and debt-free college tuition, are unrealistic and called the Democrat’s plan to reduce the state prison population “dangerous.”

But Mr. Jealous, a former head of the NAACP, said he’s prepared to run on bold ideas and that any economic turnaround in the state hasn’t touched the lives of enough people.

“You taking credit for an economy that’s slightly better years after the end of the recession in some places, not all, is like taking credit for the sun rising, sir,” Mr. Jealous said at one point.

The hourlong debate, taped Monday, is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. Monday evening on Maryland Public Television and on WJLA in the D.C. area.

Mr. Hogan has led Mr. Jealous by double digits in recent public polling on the race, and his job approval ratings have been among the highest of any governor in the country of either party.

But Maryland hasn’t re-elected a Republican governor since the 1950s, and Mr. Jealous’s campaign is banking that a coming blue wave driven by opposition to President Trump will be enough to turn out Democrats who might have stayed home in 2014, when Mr. Hogan defeated then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in a major upset.

Mr. Hogan told reporters afterward he didn’t feel like the debate was all that contentious but that he felt the need to correct the record and that Mr. Jealous was saying things that weren’t true.

“I think we were just both stating our case, but when he kept repeating the same things that were just completely opposite of the truth, I had to call him out,” the governor said. “But it wasn’t really too contentious. I was smiling. I thought it was pretty friendly.”

The Hogan campaign said afterward that voters have a choice between Mr. Hogan’s “common-sense, independent leadership” and Mr. Jealous’ “reckless, divisive and unaffordable policies which were on full display today.”

Mr. Jealous, meanwhile, said afterward that Mr. Hogan didn’t have an adequate answer on education funding and performance in the state.

“I think a lot of folks are now asking themselves: if we have record funding, why don’t we have record results, governor? And that’s what he couldn’t answer,” he said.

Jealous campaign adviser Kevin Harris said Monday marked a “clear turning point” in the race and that Mr. Hogan “repeatedly dodged and obfuscated and had no answers when pressed on how he’ll improve life for working Marylanders.”

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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