Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler ripped into the record of Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown as the Democratic candidates for governor held their third and final debate Thursday on a Baltimore radio station.

Gansler blamed O'Malley and Brown for many of Baltimore's problems as he, Brown and Del. Heather R. Mizeur appeared on former state Sen. Larry Young's WOLB-AM radio show.

"We have to recognize that there is a problem, that we're in a downward spiral economically," Gansler said.

Brown ignored many of the jabs but at one point lauded the administration's record in Baltimore, pointing to billions of dollars of investments in city schools, its historically black colleges and the port. He also defended the choices the administration made on taxes and spending during the economic recession, pointing to the state's record of holding down college costs over the past eight years.

"It doesn't happen on its own," he said.

Mizeur, meanwhile, stuck to her strategy of remaining positive and refraining from direct attacks on her rivals in the June 24 primary. She spoke of her plan for a "living wage" above the currently planned minimum wage of $10.10 in 2018. She also stressed her proposals for shifting the tax burden to millionaires and big corporations while giving relief to small businesses and 90 percent of individual taxpayers.

"I will build a strong economy with a living wage, middle-class tax cuts, and equal pay for men and women," Mizeur said. "I will not stand by as the middle class disappears."

Gansler disparaged his colleagues on the first question from Young, who asked whether the candidates had heard any ideas from their opponents that they'd want to adopt. Gansler's reply: "So far, not really." He went on to launch into a complaint about Brown sending a "tracker" to take videos of Gansler's public appearances to pirate his ideas.

Brown took the opposite tack, telling listeners "the answer is a resounding yes" and praising some of Gansler's ideas on prisoner re-entry and Mizeur's plan for affordable housing. When you don't find common ground, he said, "you don't get things done."

Mizeur followed Brown's lead, complimenting Gansler and Brown for their proposals on vocational and career education.

Amid a flurry of attack ads in the race, Gansler complained that Brown was engaging in negative campaigning. He pointed to ads criticizing both his plan for corporate tax cuts and his unwillingness to commit to as expansive a plan for prekindergarten education as his rivals.

Brown was unapologetic.

"That's fair game for voters to understand the distinctions. That's not negative campaigning," Brown said.

An ad posted Thursday on Facebook by the independent expenditure group One State, One Future, financed by labor unions that have backed Brown, labels Gansler "unfit to be governor." It reminds voters about past controversies about Gansler's allegedly unsafe instructions to the state troopers who were driving him and his presence at a teenage beach party where participants said there was underage drinking.

The spot, the most starkly negative of the race so far, came a day after the Brown and Gansler campaigns both put out attack ads over health care.

Unlike the previous debates, Thursday's encounter was carried on radio outlets with a primarily African-American audience.

Brown, responding to a question from Young, promised that in his administration there would be no duplication of graduate programs between historically black colleges and other institutions in the University System of Maryland — the subject of a bitter dispute between Morgan State University and Towson University.

Mizeur emphasized her commitment to ending what she called the state's policy of "mass incarceration" as a remedy for crime — a special concern in Baltimore, where many voters have family members who have run into trouble with the law.

Gansler criticized Brown for supporting what he called O'Malley's policy of "mass arrests" and promised a stepped-up effort to help released offenders' re-entry into the community.

Each of the candidates — all of whom come from the Washington area — emphasized their deep feelings about Baltimore.

Gansler boasted that he was the only one of the three that has his office in Baltimore and that he is the only native Marylander.

"When my opponents were growing up in New York and Illinois, I was growing up in Maryland," he said.

That brought a riposte from Brown: "I'm sorry that I was born in New York and that the lieutenant governor's office is in Annapolis, but actions speak louder than words."

As in the previous debates, Gansler criticized Brown over his role in the troubled launch of the state's health care exchange website, complaining that $200 million had been "flushed down the toilet" in developing the site.

Brown acknowledged the problems with the website but defended the overall implementation of the Affordable Care Act as a success in terms of the 340,000 Marylanders who were signed up.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com