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Republicans criticize O'Malley, but rarely each other, in GOP primary debate

Republican candidates for Maryland governor criticized the O’Malley administration - but rarely each other – in a tame radio debate today that touched on the state’s handgun permit law and 2013 death penalty repeal.

The 60-minute, morning debate was broadcast and streamed live on WBAL radio. Host Jimmy Mathis solicited questions from listeners.

The four candidates -- Harford County Executive David R. Craig, Del. Ron George of Annapolis, former Ehrlich administration official Larry Hogan and Charles County business executive Charles Lollar -- spent much of the debate drawing contrasts between their respective positions and those of Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is prevented by term limits from running again. They rarely engaged or confronted each other in their responses.

“I’m really concerned we’re way off track and heading in the wrong direction,” Hogan said. “People out there really see a huge disconnect between Annapolis and the rest of Maryland.”

Each of the candidates criticized Maryland’s law requiring applicants to show "good and substantial reason" that they need a concealed-carry license. Critics say Maryland unnecessarily restricts the right to carry firearms.

“You can get a bumper sticker: ‘Craig for concealed carry,’ ” Craig said.

“Yes, I am for a full repeal,” George said. “I am a lifetime NRA member.”

Each candidate said they disagreed with the 2013 repeal of the state’s death penalty. Nobody has been put to death in Maryland since 2006 because of a de facto moratorium imposed before the repeal was passed by the state legislature and signed by O'Malley.

“No, it wasn’t the right thing,” Lollar said of the repeal. “We took a very important tool away from police officers and law enforcement agencies.”

Said Craig: “It would have been much better to eliminate the death tax than the death penalty.”

In a Baltimore Sun poll in February, Hogan led the field in the GOP primary race with 13 percent. Craig garnered 7 percent, George had 6 percent and Lollar 5 percent. Nearly 7 in 10 Republican voters at the time remained undecided, the poll found.

The GOP candidates will debate again on June 6 on Maryland Public Television.

Since Democrats have large state House and Senate majorities, the candidates stressed their ability to work with the other party.

The primary is June 24.

The three Democratic candidates -- Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown , Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Del. Heather R. Mizeur –- debate for the first time Wednesday on Washington’s NBC affiliate. The debate will also be carried on MPT.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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