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Democrats agree on 3 gubernatorial debates

Democrats running for governor said Monday they have agreed on a schedule of three televised debates, essentially accepting a plan proposed by front-runner Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.

Brown, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Del. Heather R. Mizeur will take part in debates in the Baltimore area, the Washington area and one other so far undetermined part of the state, according to a joint statement released by their campaigns.

The outcome of the talks falls short of Mizeur's proposed seven debates before the June 24 primary. Brown has favored three all along. Gansler did not make a specific public proposal.

The campaigns agreed that the debates will take place during the weeks of May 5, May 19 and June 2. Specific times and locations, as well as the formats of the debates, are being negotiated.

According to the statement, the three campaigns will choose debate sponsors from among the groups that have already expressed an interest. New applicants will not be considered.

Brown's stance follows a pattern in which candidates with sizable leads typically prefer fewer debates — and fewer opportunities for a game-changing gaffe — than their trailing rivals. Long-shot candidates such as Mizeur usually press for more face-to-face encounters.

In a recent Baltimore Sun poll, Brown led with 35 percent of the vote, while Gansler had 14 percent and Mizeur 10 percent.

In addition to the debates by the three candidates for governor, their running mates will meet in a single debate at an undetermined place and time. The Democratic lieutenant governor candidates are Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, running with Brown; Del. Jolene Ivey of Prince George's County, Gansler's running mate; and the Rev. Delman Coates of Prince George's County, Mizeur's choice.

The campaigns said they were pleased with the "trust and cooperation" shown in the negotiations.

Brown's campaign would not comment aside from the joint statement, but the Mizeur and Gansler campaign expressed satisfaction with the outcome so far.

"The campaigns have worked closely over the past several weeks to ensure that voters are able to hear from the candidates in the most productive, effective way possible," said Mizeur campaign manager Joanna Belanger. "The negotiations are ongoing, but I think it's safe to say that all the campaigns have been happy with the process and the outcome to this point."

Bob Wheelock, a spokesman for the Gansler campaign, said his candidate would have welcomed more debates but called the decision to hold three "a matter of scheduling."

"This will give the people a good look at who these people are and what they stand for and how they are different," Wheelock said.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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