Photo above: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, WJZ anchor Vic Carter, Baltimore Sun editorial editor Andy Green, Larry Hogan Jr.
Here are some reactions to last night’s debate between Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Republican businessman Larry Hogan Jr. in the race for Maryland governor. Commentators include Blaine Taylor, Brian Griffiths, Barry Rascovar, Todd Eberly, Rick Vatz, Christopher Summers and Len Lazarick.
The fact that it was taped in the morning, with reporters allowed to watch it from a separate room meant that news sites and broadcast outlets should have issued “Spoiler alerts” with their stories throughout the day as they do in Olympics coverage when events are covered before they are actually aired.
The full debate, broken into segments, can be seen at WJZ/
Superb presentations, and we got to assess Sun editor
By Blaine Taylor
Both candidates for Governor gave superb presentations of their differing points of view. The Lieutenant Governor mentioned his running mate often, Mr. Hogan mentioned his running mate perhaps once.
I also got a chance to see Andrew Green and take his measure as a person. This is important to voters as well, because as a Sunpapers editorial page editor, he not only controls what op-ed page submissions get used, but also whose letters to the editor get published, or not. Those are tremendous powers. As the late, great Hyman Pressman told me personally in his office in 1969, “The editors of the Sun are the new bosses, unelected by any voter, responsible to no voter.” The same is true of all the TV talking heads. We need to be wary of the expanding power of this unelected class of decision-makers.
I was surprised that not one word was said by either candidate about the biggest demonstrated incompetence in Maryland political history, that of the health care rollout flop. Maybe it’ll be discussed next time, and perhaps also we’ll learn about Mr. Hogan’s running mate. I hope so.
Blaine Taylor is an author who’s run for U.S. Senate and House as a Democrat.
Hogan dominated the performance
By Brian Griffiths
Nearly a year ago the editors at Red Maryland, myself included, enthusiastically endorsed Larry Hogan for Governor. Never were we proven more right than in Hogan’s dominant debate performance today over Anthony Brown.
It was very clear that Larry Hogan was the only candidate who understood the issues that were facing our state. He understood our budget situation, our business climate, and the solutions that necessary in order to bring our state economy out of the doldrums that the O’Malley-Brown Administration brought upon us.
Anthony Brown’s debate performance showed us two things.
- One, it proved again how Brown’s internal polling must show him down significantly to Larry Hogan. Most of Brown’s comments were attacks aimed at Hogan, and even most of those attacks have already been previously discredited.
- Secondly, it showed why Brown’s handlers have tried to keep him out of the public eye. Anthony Brown is not somebody who is comfortable at public speaking, and certainly not comfortable talking without prepared remarks or notes. Brown is definitely not somebody who is capable of great oratory when speaking extemporaneously. Probably why Larry Hogan was willing to stay and take questions from the press after the debate and Anthony Brown left as soon as he could.
Larry Hogan was the only candidate who looked like a governor on stage and he won the debate, yet oddly there’s another significant story here as well.
Of all of the questions that were asked during the debate, not one of them was about Anthony Brown’s failed leadership on the Health Care Exchange. Not a single one. Vic Carter and Andy Green were quick to query Larry Hogan about the many broadsides launched at him by Brown and his surrogates, but not one single solitary question about Brown’s failed leadership on health care (or, for that matter, his failed leadership on the East Baltimore Development project).
Given the fact that both WJZ and the Baltimore Sun have had been accused on more than one occasion of media bias in favor of Brown, it is unconscionable that this question did not get asked. And because of that, it is really journalistic malpractice that Vic Carter and Andy Green didn’t ask Anthony Brown about his failed leadership on the exchanges.
Brian Griffiths is an editor and commentator at the partisan Red Maryland blog.
Is this the best we’ve got?
By Barry Rascovar
This is the best we’ve got?
It was a pretty thin performance by each candidate. The two focused on trashing one another and repeating way too often their trite attack lines. Neither presented a compelling argument for becoming governor. They all but proclaimed, “Don’t like what the other guy stands for? Then vote for me.”
Brown clearly bested Hogan on the environmental question. Hogan’s response on lowering the state’s crime rate was the better answer.
Each candidate exaggerated to the point of fabrication.
Biggest mistake: Brown’s “no new taxes” pledge. He will rue the day he said that. There’s no way he can govern for eight years without increasing the state’s revenue base.
Both overpromised when it came to reviving Maryland’s economy. No governor has the ability to do that, though they might nudge it along with wise tax policies.
Brown’s closing remarks were pathetically weak (the “American dream” shtick). Hogan’s closing was far superior in making the case for change.
But Brown didn’t mess up. He’s in the lead in a deeply blue state. The race remains his to lose.
Barry Rascovar has been reporting on Maryland politics for over 40 years.
Both men did well
By Todd Eberly
Anthony Brown and Larry Hogan each can walk away feeling good about how they did. Brown offered a strong opening statement that linked his 30 years of service to our military to his ongoing service to the people of Maryland. Hogan opened by going directly to the issue that appears to be the most important of the election — jobs and the economic health of the state.
It was a spirited debate and Brown and Hogan were clearly comfortable engaging with one another. Though Brown is the frontrunner in a heavily Democratic state, he had the toughest task. As the quasi-incumbent he had to defend Maryland’s economy while simultaneously acknowledging that people are worried and that things could be better. Offer too strong a defense and he alienates voters. Speak too much to the state’s troubled economy and he risks voters blaming him and his unpopular boss, Gov. Martin O’Malley.
That said, Brown walked that tightrope rather well. Unfortunately for him, every proposal he made for strengthening the economy opened a door for Hogan to ask “Where were you for the last eight years?” And Hogan never missed an opportunity to walk through the door.
Brown’s one gaffe came early in the debate when he made reference to Maryland’s “vibrant economy.” I suspect Hogan will be repeating that quote in an effort to portray Brown as out of touch. I thought Brown was strongest when explaining how his military training has influenced his public loyalty to O’Malley – you don’t pull the rug out from under your boss. Brown made clear that he is not Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and a few cute web ads questioning his competence will not change that.
Hogan was clearly at ease and comfortable. He stayed focused like a laser on pocketbook issues and never missed an opportunity to link Brown to O’Malley and then to the state’s troubled economy. Hogan was also clearly prepared for Brown’s attack lines. When Brown pointed to the numerous errors in Hogan’s cost savings plan, including a $100 million rounding error, Hogan replied that a rounding error was Brown’s claim that $10 billion in additional spending was actually an $8 billion spending cut – “that’s an $18 billion rounding error.”
When Brown attacked Hogan for supporting a cut to the state’s corporate tax rate as a “corporate giveaway” Hogan replied that Maryland was giving corporations away to Virginia and North Carolina. Those were very effective redirections. His worst moment came when he refused to point to something that Brown or O’Malley have done well.
Hogan was also effective when discussing the issues that usually hurt Republicans in Maryland. He did not call for across the board tax cuts or spending cuts – rather he promised to see what could be done. He chastised O’Malley and Brown for raiding environmental trust funds. He made clear that he won’t repeal the firearms bill, the minimum wage hike, or work to restrict the legality of abortion — then he went a step beyond Brown and advocated access to over the counter contraception. Hogan made clear that he is not Ellen Sauerbrey and $1 million in negative ads won’t change that.
Both men did well. Would I call it a tie? Yes, but in this case the tie helps Hogan. The Goucher College poll out today showed that fully half of Maryland voters didn’t know Hogan well enough to have an opinion of him. Think about that… in a heavily Democratic state Hogan is competitive with Brown even though half the voters don’t know much about him. That speaks to Brown’s troubles and Hogan’s opportunities. The millions that Brown and others have spent on negative ads to try and define Hogan clearly have not worked. With this debate, Hogan had an opportunity to define himself and he did that quite well. I suspect his numbers will go up.
One last thought. After the debate, Hogan stuck around and took questions from the press. Brown left. This continues a very bizarre strategy by the Brown campaign to shield Brown from anything but friendly and scripted events. I do not understand the strategy. If I were managing the campaign of a candidate who was a 30 year vet, who received a Bronze Star and a Legion of Merit, and who was the most engaged lieutenant governor in the state’s history I would have him out and about and accessible 24/7. And yet his campaign is acting as if it would be too risky to allow him to attend unscripted events. When a campaign acts like it doesn’t trust its own candidate, people start to notice. Team Brown really needs to reassess this strategy.
Todd Eberly is chair of the Department of Political Science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland
An excellent debate, won convincingly by Hogan
By Richard E. Vatz
This debate was exemplary of a good, substantive political clash. In contrast with the political campaign that has transpired thus far, tonight’s contest focused not on irrelevant, small bore issues and general nonsubstantive negative casting of opponents, but on critical issues such as Maryland tax policy, spending policy, business climate, gerrymandering and education. The only major issue ignored was the health care rollout and lack of legislative hearings on the matter, but either candidate could have brought that up.
The candidates were both prepared and civil, reasonably irritated only in a few stretches. The moderators were punctiliously fair, uninterested in making the debates about themselves. Take note, Candy Crowley and Brian Williams.
There were illuminating exchanges, such as Mr. Hogan’s unanswered accusations on the consecutive tax increases. Fiscal irresponsibility of the O’Malley Administration was opposed in absentia by Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot.
Mr. Hogan was able to point out that Lt. Gov. Brown’s charges regarding Hogan’s purported tuition hikes were indeed without basis and that he has not opposed pre-K education (which is another trick to get government involved ever earlier in our lives) but merely wants to wait until it is clear we can afford it. Moreover, the tone of the campaign has not been lowered equally by the candidates: Mr. Hogan made a wrong turn on calling Lt. Gov. Brown “the most incompetent man in Maryland,” but Brown’s repeated ads depicting Hogan as “dangerous,” “radical” and someone who wants to “take Maryland backward” are beyond the pale.
Lt. Gov. Brown was the smoother stylemeister tonight, and Mr. Hogan was the ungainly street fighter, but where they clashed (not everywhere), Hogan bested Brown repeatedly.
Brown wants to solve a myriad of problems, including high taxes, loss of businesses, loss of Marylanders, gerrymandering, but every time Hogan asked why Brown allowed these problems to exist and worsen in the O’Malley Administration, Brown had no answer. The devastating message: you want to solve problems you created.
Immigration? Both care for the children, but Brown has no concern that allowing them to stay in the U.S. and particularly in Maryland will create a precedent that will lead to an unending commerce of illegal immigrants who will then become legal citizens.
Message of debate: if you are happy with the economic and social direction of the state, vote Brown; if not, vote Hogan.
Overall: Hogan wins substance; Brown wins elocution.
A Hogan debate victory going away.
Richard E. Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of “The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion” (Kendall Hunt, 2013)
Both overstated “facts” but there was no clear winner
By Len Lazarick
I wanted to yell at the TV when each of the candidates overstated “facts,” dropping qualifiers and nuance. There were numerous examples, such as when Brown said Maryland “leads the nation in college affordability.”
What happened is Maryland went from being one of the least affordable states to the middle of pack. The O’Malley-Brown administration accomplished that by keeping a lid on tuition while other states were raising tuition during the recession.
Then there were Hogan’s repeated references to “40 consecutive tax hikes.” Having founded the group that most promoted this number, Hogan has dropped the inclusion of “fees” on such things as birth certificates, death certificates and professional licenses that make up some of those 40 “hikes.”
Brown will regret saying “We will not raise taxes,” a flat no-new-taxes pledge that replaced his more ambiguous “I don’t foresee the need to raise taxes.”
Neither candidate was really smooth, which may be a plus for some persuadable voters.
Hooray, that they both agreed on a independent commission for redistricting and drawing congressional lines. But as Hogan pointed out, where was Brown in 2011 when the governor’s advisory committee was creating the grotesque congressional districts we have now.
And when Brown said, “Debates aren’t about the past, they’re about the future,” he disregarded the part of the hiring process in which past performance is the best predictor of future achievement. “He doesn’t want to talk about his eight year record of failure,” said Hogan. Actually, Brown, like any good candidate on a job interview, is happy to talk about successes, just not about failures.
This debate, like so many, had no clear winner or loser. Brown held his own, with no serious mistakes, other than the tax pledge which will only hurt down the road if he is elected. Hogan didn’t have a major stumble, though he seemed to repeat “there you go again,” a little too much, a Ronald Reagan rhetorical device which should be used sparingly.
The candidates will be back again next Monday and the following Saturday for their second and third debates.
Len Lazarick is editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com.
Distractions from Brown
It appears that the Brown campaign wants to distract from the broader issues – which are a stalled Maryland economy, rising unemployment, and once again the return of structural deficits for which the O’Malley/Brown administration said they would fix years ago with their record tax increases.
President, Maryland Public Policy Institute