Democrat Douglas F. Gansler's running mate came out swinging at front-runner Anthony G. Brown on health care Tuesday as the three Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor met in their only scheduled television debate.
Del. Jolene Ivey of Prince George's County, who is running with Gansler, slammed Brown as a "failed leader" of Maryland's implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. She rejected the arguments of Brown's running mate, Ken Ulman, that the state exceeded its enrollment goals despite the failure of its health exchange web site.
"The only people who think the Affordable Care Act in Maryland was a success are Anthony Brown and Ken Ulman," Ivey said.
Ulman, the Howard County executive, debated Ivey and candidate Heather Mizeur's running mate, the Rev. Delman Coates, on News Channel 8 in Washington just 10 hours before Mizeur and Gansler were scheduled to meet in a Baltimore television debate that Brown did not plan to attend. The primary election is June 24.
The first question in the lieutenant governor debate was about health care, and Ivey wasted no time going on the attack. In addition to criticizing the rollout of the state exchange, she criticized the O'Malley-Brown administration for not disclosing enough information about what led to the technical failure.
"Why hasn't Anthony Brown released copies of his emails about his leadership on the Affordable Care Act?" she demanded. "They don't want a report to come out before the election. Isn't that interesting?"
Ulman countered that the administration had fired the exchange contractor, replaced the leadership of the exchange, beefed up its call centers and signed up 340,000 Marylanders for coverage under Obamacare.
Coates struck a generally positive tone about Mizeur's candidacy and refrained from attacks on the other two candidates.
Ulman criticized Gansler over his plan to cut the corporate income tax and — in response to a question about corruption in government – Gansler's call for abolition of the state prosecutor's office. But Ulman mostly stuck with the theme that Maryland has made great progress in many areas during eight years under Gov. Martin O'Malley, though he said there is still work to be done.
Ivey struck a scornful tone in describing Brown — at one point getting in a dig about his marital history.
Responding to a question about some incidents that have brought critical coverage of Gansler — including allegations that he ordered his Maryland State Police drivers to break traffic laws and his role at a teen party where participants said there was underage drinking — Ivey pointed to his marriage to his wife, Laura.
Gansler, she said, has been "married to the same woman 22 years. Not everybody can say that."
Brown was divorced from his first wife in 2009 and married his second wife two years ago.
Ivey and Ulman found themselves on the same side on the question of how to treat marijuana. Both expressed support for the state's recent move to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug but opposed full legalization now,
"I think we should take a deep breath and watch Washington and Colorado," said Ulman — pointing to the two states where voters have approved measures to legalize and regulate marijuana sales.
Coates, however, said decriminalization doesn't go far enough.
"It continues to leave marijuana usage in the underground economy," he said. Mizeur has proposed legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana.
Ivey was put on the defensive by a question about Gansler's criticism of O'Malley's record of proposing tax increases that she supported in the legislature.
"Doug Gansler has never said he's going to roll back the taxes that we have. We certainly aren't going to increase them," she said.
Even before the debate ended, the Brown campaign struck back, pointing out that Gansler has proposed a gradual rollback of the corporate income tax from 8.25 percent to 6 percent — a plan Brown has labeled a "giveaway."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun