Maryland Gubernatorial Candidates Square off in Debate - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Gubernatorial Candidates Square off in Debate

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BALTIMORE (AP/WBOC) - Gubernatorial candidates Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Larry Hogan dueled vigorously over how to improve Maryland's economy during their first televised debate Tuesday.

The candidates also skirmished over gun control, education, abortion and crime.

Financial issues, however, came up repeatedly in the debate at WJZ-TV. The station was scheduled to show the event, co-hosted by The Baltimore Sun, on Tuesday evening. Hogan, a Republican, highlighted tax increases initiated by Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley to link Brown with unpopular tax hikes. Hogan has made the criticism a main thrust of his campaign.

"Taxpayers in Maryland are suffering," Hogan said. "They just can't take it anymore, and that's exactly why I'm running."

“We've lost 8,000 small businesses,” Hogan added. “Unemployment has doubled. 200,000 Marylanders are out of work. We're third in the nation in foreclosures. We've had zero economic growth, and our state economy ranks 49th out of 50 states.”

“This election is not about the past and where we've been,” countered Brown. “This election is about the future and what's next for Maryland. Ken Ullman and I will wake up every day with you, Maryland, to fight for working families and middle class values.”

Brown pointed to a 40 percent increase in college tuition during former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich's administration and overcrowded classrooms and terrible traffic congestion when O'Malley and Brown took office in 2007 as evidence the state had fallen behind in making critical investments. Brown said Maryland residents did their part to boost needed state investments. The Democratic lieutenant governor emphasized he did not see a need for tax increases, if he is elected.

"There will be no new taxes," Brown said.

On the contrary, Brown said, he would explore tax relief. He stressed his differences with Hogan on that point, criticizing the real estate broker's proposal to cut the corporate income tax from 8.25 percent to 6 percent. Brown described it as a corporate tax giveaway to the wealthy few. Brown said he would direct tax credits at small businesses to help the middle class.

“In a Brown/Ullman administration, we'll fight for working families and middle class jobs, which means we're supporting small, entrepreneurial businesses, with targeted tax credits so that they can create the jobs that put Marylanders to work.”

Hogan countered that Brown's comments sounded good, but that they ran contrary to what has happened since 2007.

“What the Lt. Governor just said really sounds pretty good,” he remarked. “Unfortunately, it's the complete opposite of his eight year record of failure. You can't say that you're going to help middle class families and struggling Marylanders, when for the past eight years, you've passed 40 consecutive tax hikes that are crushing struggling Maryland families.”

Hogan said he wants to roll back as many tax increases as he can.

Moderators posed questions to the candidates sent in by state residents.

Brown, asked about the negative tone of the campaign, said he believed it was important to highlight his opponent's positions.

Brown then segued to criticizing Hogan for his position on gun control. Hogan replied that he wouldn't try to roll back last year's sweeping gun-control law. Brown also criticized Hogan over a report in The Washington Post that cited people who said Hogan told them he would appoint a state police superintendent who would be looser on gun-control enforcement. When asked by reporters after the debate about it, Hogan said the claim was "a bunch of nonsense."

Hogan also countered television ads that say he supports rolling back abortion rights. Hogan said he would not seek changes to those state laws if elected.

During the debate, Brown said while work remains to drive down crime, statistics show crime is at its lowest level in decades. Hogan, however, criticized how the state has handled a spike in heroin statewide, a trend that has been seen in other parts of the nation as well. Hogan said he would declare a state of emergency to address the problem in January, if elected.

The candidates also weighed in on the environment and protecting the Chesapeake Bay.

“Rather than just blaming farmers and watermen and the rain that falls on the roof of your house, we're going to take other actions,” said Hogan. “43 percent of all the sediment in the Bay comes down the Susquehanna River, over the Conowingo Dam. That's the number one issue. Its been completely ignored for eight years.”

“We need a robust stormwater management facility program to reduce the stormwater that carries pollutants into the Bay,” Brown countered. “We need to work with farmers. The plowmen working with the fishermen, right, the farmers to reduce runoff, and we've done a great job with that.”

A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released Monday said Brown was leading Hogan by 9 percentage points in a state where registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 2-1. Brown was leading Hogan 47 percent to 38 percent among likely voters. Eleven percent were undecided. The poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday among a random sample of 1,005 adults on conventional and cellphones. The margin of error for registered voters is plus or minus 4 percentage points and 5 percentage points for likely voters.

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