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Democratic candidates for Maryland governor set for second televised debate

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

The crowded field of Democrats running for governor will compete in the second televised debate of the campaign on Wednesday as the seven major candidates seek to gain traction with less than 30 days until the primary election.

The debate will be broadcast at 7 p.m. in the Washington region on News Channel 8 and in the Baltimore region on CW54.

Sinclair Broadasting is hosting the pre-taped event, which allows candidates to deliver one-minute openings followed by a debate moderated by Baltimore Fox 45 anchor Kai Jackson. Two other TV journalists — Brad Bell of ABC 7 and Chris Papst of Fox 45 — will ask questions on several topics.

The Maryland Democratic Party, eager to avoid the appearance of putting its thumb on the scale to help a front-runner, has organized four debates with all nine candidates on the ballot.

The seven candidates who have raised enough money and built an organization credible to win a statewide bid are Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, former Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, former NAACP president Ben Jealous, attorney Jim Shea, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., entrepreneur Alec Ross, and former Michelle Obama policy aide Krish Vignarajah. Baltimore resident James Jones and teacher Ralph Jaffe have also filed to run.

So far, the Democratic field has largely agreed on policy issues and candidates have struggled to distinguish themselves. According to the most recent public polling, most primary voters are undecided. The field is so crowded that political analysts say the winner could claim victory with as little as 25 percent of the vote.

The winner of the Democratic primary election will face Gov. Larry Hogan in the November general election. The popular governor does not face a GOP primary challenger and is in a strong position as he waits for Democrats to pick a candidate. He recently reported having $9 million in his campaign coffers — more than the Democratic field combined — and began this week to air $1.3 million in commercials across the state.

During the first televised debate May 21, the Democrats attacked Hogan and used their biographical differences to draw distinctions among their campaigns.

Two more televised debates with all nine candidates are planned for June 13 and June 23. The Baltimore Sun and WJZ are hosting a June 5 televised debate with the top seven contenders.

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