As hopefuls in the governor’s race debated transportation Tuesday night, Del. Heather Mizeur questioned Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown's competence in light of the failing health care exchange he oversaw.
Mizeur said the pending public-private-partnership to build the 16-mile Purple Line between Prince George’s and Montgomery counties would cost ten times the amount of money spent on the online insurance marketplace. And like the health exchange, the Purple Line deal was complicated and challenging to implement, she said.
"It's a fair question to ask that if we're trusting the same people to create a similarly untested, complex project to deliver public services, and they failed once, what makes us think we're going to get a different result this time?" said Mizeur, a Democrat from Montgomery County.
Mizeur's questioned Brown's leadership during a forum held in Silver Spring by Purple Line NOW!, an advocacy group. While the Democratic primary race has been fought bitterly between Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who is also in the race, Mizeur has largely avoided direct attacks on her two rivals. Last month, she criticized the health care rollout as “a debacle.”
Brown was the O'Malley administration's point-person on implementing the exchange, which crashed on its first day and continues to see low enrollment in private health insurance policies as it struggles with glitches.
After Tuesday's debate, Mizeur said that given the importance of building the Purple Line, connecting it’s implementation to the flubbed rollout of the Affordable Care Act was appropriate. "In this particular case, it's a fair question to ask," Mizeur said.
The lieutenant governor did not attend Tuesday's event because of a scheduling conflict. His running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, defended Brown's role in other complex projects, including helping craft deals that used private resources expand the Port of Baltimore and overseeing the military Base Realignment and Closure process that brought tens of thousands of jobs to Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground.
"I'm very proud of the administration's record of making progress in very difficult areas," Ulman said after the debate. "I'm very proud of the lieutenant governor's role in so many significant areas."
Gansler, who for weeks has been aggressively attacking Brown on the troubled health exchange, after the debate echoed Mizeur's line of questioning, and said the state needed a "Plan B" on how to build the Purple Line.
"These are the same people who couldn't get a website going. How can you expect them to get this out the door?" Gansler asked.
Republican candidate Charles Lollar, a Charles County businessman, also participated in the forum, but he stayed out of the fray over the health exchange. In general, Lollar told the audience at the Montgomery College’s Cultural Arts Center he was "tired of people using partisan politics ... to separate us from the solutions."