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Carroll County Times

Gansler, Brown on attack in first TV debate for Maryland Democrats in governors race

The gloves came off quickly in the first televised debate for three Democrats running for governor in Maryland.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler exchanged barbs throughout the event. In the opening minutes of Wednesday night's Democratic gubernatorial debate on NBC4, a Washington-based NBC affiliate, Gansler attacked Brown for his role in the rollout of Maryland's troubled health exchange.

Gansler cited glitches that blocked some consumers from logging onto the online health care exchange in its beginning months. Gansler said Brown touted the his role as a leader on the health exchange and is "the only person that believes it's been a success."

Brown took responsibility for the exchange's troubles, saying everyone involved was to blame including himself.

Throughout the 60-minute debate, the two candidates went after each other.

Brown questioned Gansler's parenting skills when a question was asked about pictures that surfaced last year of Gansler at his son's "beach week" party where underage drinking was involved. Gansler said he may have handled it differently

Gansler said Marylanders couldn't take any more tax increases after he said 40 consecutive tax increases occurred while Brown "was at the seat of power and stood by when all this was happening to our state."

Meanwhile, the third Democratic candidate, Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, said she wasn't "about casting blame." Later, she questioned whether Marylanders wanted their candidates acting like Brown and Gansler.

"You asked about leadership and character. I don't think it's about this kind of personal bickering and attacks," Mizeur said. "Voters are wanting candidates to remain positive and stay focused on the issues."

Wednesday night's debate was the first of three expected televised debates for the Democratic candidates for governor. A second debate is also for June 6 on Maryland Public Television, and a third debate is expected to be scheduled before the June 24 primary election.

Discussion played out on Twitter and Facebook as the candidates discussed their positions on issues like the legalization of marijuana, the Washington Redskins' nickname and strengthening the business climate in Maryland.

Mizeur, a long-time proponent of legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol, stood by her plan to do just that and use the revenue to pay for universal pre-kindergarten in the state.

Brown and Gansler were against a quick move to legalize the drug, however.

"We shouldn't be motivated by having yet another tax on a product," Gansler said.

Discussing their plans to aid the business climate in Maryland, Mizeur said she was the only Democratic candidate who has owned a small business.

She stressed the need to close the so-called combined reporting corporate tax loophole that allows companies with operations in multiple states to avoid paying Maryland's corporate income tax. Mizeur also suggested bringing back the state's millionaire's tax, which from 2008 to 2011 levied a 6.25 percent tax rate on those with income of more than $1 million.

Brown said he planned to spend his first 100 days in office looking at tax reform. He also said he didn't see the need to increase any taxes in the "foreseeable future."

But Brown provided little in the way of specific plans in comparison to his competitors. Twice during the debate Brown redirected his attention to what he dubbed Gansler's "corporate tax giveaway."

Gansler has proposed to gradually reduce Maryland's corporate income tax rate from 8.25 percent to 6 percent, to match Virginia's.

"If we're going to invest in education, if we're going to invest in transportation, we can't afford to give a small number of the largest corporations in Maryland a $1.6 billion tax giveaway," Brown argued.

All three candidates agreed on the need to change the name of Washington's football team.

Gansler said he agreed the nickname was a slur. But he said he didn't think he'd leverage his power, if elected governor, to force the team to change its nickname. He said he thought the organization was on its way to changing its nickname anyway.

Brown's campaign later sent out an email to the press that linked to a Gansler interview on WMAL in May 2013. In the interview, Gansler voices a different opinion on the nickname.

"I've been a Redskins fan my whole life," Gansler said in the interview last year. "I don't think there's anything disrespectful about the name. So I don't have a problem with the name."

Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary's College in Southern Maryland, saw Gansler as the winner of the debate because he slapped "down Brown's repeated attempts to land a punch."

But Eberly said David Gregory, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," was the "most obvious loser" of the night.

"He hosts a national political show and yet seemed out of his depth. Worse, he marginalized Mizeur," Eberly said. "This debate was crucial to her campaign. It was her chance to show that she was a true third candidate, as qualified and credible as Brown and Gansler. And yet Gregory seemed to think this was the Brown-Gansler debate and granted them time for replies and rebuttals while simply excluding Mizeur."


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