The No. 2 members of the three contending Democratic gubernatorial tickets sparred Friday night in a well-attended debate in East Baltimore in which they clashed over marijuana legalization, taxation, health care and other issues.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, Del. Jolene Ivey and the Rev. Delman Coates each drew cheers from vocal supporters at the forum sponsored by the BEST Democratic Club at the Sign of the Times restaurant -- a political hangout near Patterson Park.
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown sat in the crowd to show his support for Ulman, his choice to be his successor. Not attending were Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, running with Ivey, nor Del. Heather R. Mizeur, who chose Coates as her lieutenant governor candidate.
Brown watched as Ulman got in a couple of licks at Gansler over the attorney general's support for a corporate tax cut that Ulman characterized as a $1.6 billion "giveaway" -- pointed to the estimated cost in state revenues over five years. Ivey, a two-term Prince George's County lawmaker, took her shots at the lieutenant governor over the O'Malley-Brown administration's record on schools, jobs and crime but left the criticism of the tax plan unanswered.
Coates, pastor of a large church in Prince George's County, showed he was prepared to mix it up with two veteran elected officials -- slamming Gansler over a settlement the state reached with five national mortgage lenders over abusive practices and taking on Brown over the state's troubled rollout of its health care insurance web site.
After Ivey lauded Gansler for his role in the $1.5 billion settlement for Maryland, Coates charged that the deal was inadequate for homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure.
"The settlement with the banks is, in my opinion, a giveaway to the banks," he said. Closing the debate, Coates got in an equally sharp jab at Brown, charging that the lieutenant governor's role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act called into question his ability to implement any of his policies.
Ivey boasted about her longtime support for decriminalization of marijuana, but drew the line at Mizeur's support of legalizing and regulating the drug.
"I'm a mom. I have five boys. That's not something I want them to do," she said. Ivey added a warning that people from out of state would come to Maryland, get high and drive on state roads.
"I don't think it's good for children, I don't think it's good for safety," she said.
The crowd seemed more sympathetic to Coates' defense of Mizeur's position, giving some of the strongest applause of the night to his statement that "prohibition doesn't work." Ulman finessed the issue, backing decriminalization but avoiding the topic of legalization.
Without being asked, Ivey addressed the issue of her racial identity. A light-skinned woman, Ivey was discussing her role in founding a group for African-American mothers when she told the racially mixed crowd: "I am black, in case you couldn't tell."