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

Maryland Gubernatorial Candidates Square-Off in Final Debate

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) - Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Larry Hogan presented opposing views on issues affecting the Eastern Shore and western Maryland in their final debate of the governor's race on Saturday.

The candidates were asked about whether they supported drilling for natural gas in western Maryland. Brown, a Democrat, said drilling in the Marcellus shale presents a tremendous economic opportunity, but he wants to ensure it can be done without causing health or environmental problems.

"I believe that we can achieve a balance, develop the natural gas, and we can do it without disturbing the rural legacy and putting Marylanders at undue risk," Brown said. "If we can do that, then I'll support moving forward in developing natural gas in the Marcellus shale in Maryland."

Hogan, however, criticized delays under Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration. Hogan, a Republican, said he believes enough data has been collected to move forward.

"It's something that I would try to bring to a head, make a decision and move forward as quickly as we possibly can," Hogan said, citing the economic lift drilling could provide in a part of the state that could use the help.

The candidates also clashed over proposed fertilizer regulations to cut down on phosphorous pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Proposed regulations, which have been delayed for further discussions, have angered poultry producers on Maryland's Eastern Shore for being too burdensome.

Hogan said while the bay needs to be protected, everyone must be brought to the table to negotiate to prevent agricultural interests from being overburdened by regulations.

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure we come up with real environmental protections that don't put entire regions of the state or industries out of business," Hogan said.

Brown said he understands the poultry industry is vital to Maryland, because it employs tens of thousands of people. He said he was confident the state could strike a balanced approach.

"We can implement phosphorous management tools in a balanced way that does not drive poultry out of Maryland, and that's how we'll do it," Brown said.

The proposed fertilizer regulations are set to be resubmitted before the end of the year.

The third and final debate was sponsored by WBAL-TV and Maryland Public Television. It differed from the previous two debates, because it included one panelist from the Eastern Shore, WBOC's Steve Hammond and another from western Maryland. The first debate took place in Baltimore, and the second took place in the Washington, D.C., media market.

The debate was at least as contentious as the first two, as both candidates aggressively worked to erode their opponent's credibility and competence. The campaign has been characterized by negative advertising. They also debated how to improve the state's business climate, which has been a major issue throughout the campaign.

Hogan criticized tax increases and heavy-handed regulations for stifling the business climate in Maryland. Hogan has campaigned on working to reduce tax increases, such as the corporate income tax.

"We have an anti-business attitude," Hogan said.

Brown, however, said Hogan was downplaying the state's strengths. Brown noted that Maryland is one of the only states to have maintained a Triple-A bond rating through the Great Recession, an expression of confidence from bond-rating agencies that enables Maryland to better invest in infrastructure such as broadband for rural Maryland.

"There's tremendous opportunities, but where Mr. Hogan and I differ is I start with tax credits, tax relief for small and entrepreneurial businesses that create two out of every three middle-class jobs, and those jobs can be created right there on the Eastern Shore," he said.

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