October 16, 2014

Lt. gov. candidates Ulman, Rutherford clash in radio debate

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Photo above: Ken Ulman and Boyd Rutherford debate from WAMU video.

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

The two men running for the No. 2 spot at the Annapolis State House actually have more government management experience on their resumes than their running mates at the top of the ticket for governor.

But Democrat Ken Ulman, the two-term Howard County executive, and Boyd Rutherford, a former state General Services secretary and assistant U.S. agriculture secretary, faithfully echoed the positions of party nominees Anthony Brown and Larry Hogan Jr. as they argued with each other and even the moderator Thursday in an hour-long debate on WAMU-FM (click here for a video of the full hour).

Prodded by host Kojo Nnamdi, Ulman and Rutherford clashed on college tuition, spending cuts, taxes, the minimum wage, health care, gun control, business climate, the Purple Line, immigration and the Chesapeake Bay. But they also shared a laugh or some friendly banter about their first low-paid jobs and the Washington Redskins, whom the Democrats want to keep in Maryland but with a different name.

TUITION: Ulman sought to blame Hogan for tuition hikes in the Ehrlich administration, saying O’Malley-Brown had subsequently kept them down. (Maryland is now in the middle of state tuition rates, but had been among highest.) Rutherford said O’Malley-Brown administration had not kept pace with community college funding. (Story continues below photo)

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Ken Ulman and Boyd Rutherford debate from WAMU video.

MINIMUM WAGE: Ulman said Brown led the fight for a higher minimum wage passed this year to rise over several years to $10.10. Rutherford said, “our objection has been the timing” of any wage hike while “the economy is struggling.” Plus, it was never intended to be a living wage for a family, and could cost teenagers jobs.

BUSINESS AND TAXES: Ulman repeated Brown’s pledge to give Maryland “the most competitive business climate” in the country and “we don’t see the need to raise taxes.”

Rutherford said taxes are already “too high. We don’t have to be the lowest tax state in the country, but we have to be competitive.”

PURPLE LINE (Bethesda to New Carrollton light rail): “We have to build the purple line,” Ulman said. Maryland can’t afford to build it now, Rutherford said.

GUNS: Hogan keeps changing his story, Ulman said, and has secretly promised not to enforce firearms bill passed last year. Rutherford said they will not attempt to change current law, and said he could not comment on a request to release Hogan’s response to a questionnaire from the National Rifle Association that gave the Republican a grade of A-.

HEALTH CARE: Asked if a Hogan-Rutherford administration would get rid of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Rutherford said, “That’s ridiculous.” He  accused O’Malley-Brown of a “backroom deal” to give out no-bid contracts for the health benefit exchange website to a major corporate donor to the Democratic Governor’s Association, which is supporting Brown.

“That was all very rich,” scoffed Ulman, saying the team welcomed the state and federal investigations of the website problems.

POLICE CAMERAS: On making police officers wear cameras, both candidates said it was worth considering and is currently being studied.

IMMIGRATION: Rutherford said that the United States needed to “take care of the kids” crossing the southern border illegally and their needs for a humanitarian reasons, but he was “not sure it was a good idea” to bring them thousands of miles to Maryland. “I don’t think it’s fair to them. I think it could be done a little differently.”

Ulman said, “This is the biggest example of dysfunction in Washington, D.C.”

FOOTBALL: Rutherford, a Washington native, said he’s sympathetic to plans to have the team play back in D.C. rather than at FedEx Field in Largo, saying he remembers the team playing at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. He said Larry Hogan Jr. might have to be persuaded to that position.

Ulman said, “We want anyone bringing jobs into Maryland” and to “keep the team here.”

“The lieutenant governor and I believe it’s time to change the team name,” Ulman said.

CHESAPEAKE BAY: Rutherford said the state should continue current programs to restore the bay. But much more needed to be done about the polluted sediment behind the Conowingo Dam and Maryland needed to push the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be “much more restrictive” about practices in Pennsylvania that impact the bay.