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Democrats to share stage Monday in first debate of Maryland governor's race

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Eight candidates running for governor are set to share the stage Monday in the first of five scheduled debates in the Maryland Democratic primary race.

The hour-long WBAL-Maryland Public Television debate is to be taped in the morning and aired at 7 p.m. Monday. Candidates will have 90 seconds to introduce themselves and then field questions in a moderated debate.

There are so many candidates that introductions alone will take up roughly a quarter of the debate time. A ninth candidate, an Orthodox Jew who couldn’t attend because it coincides with the religious holiday Shavuot, will give a taped statement before it begins.

The crowded field is scheduled to have one televised debate per week over the next five weeks until the June 26 primary.

Candidates began going up last week on airwaves to attempt to capture voter’s attention.

Before then, most stuck to a frantic schedule of forums across the state trying to to break out from the packed field. Public polls in the previous few months showed most Democratic voters were undecided about which candidate they want to challenge popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.

Hogan, who consistently has job approval ratings in the high 60s, has amassed more money than the entire Democratic field combined, according to the most recent campaign finance filings in January. New reports, due by midnight Tuesday, will offer a glimpse into which Democrats can compete aggressively in the remaining weeks before the primary.

There are nine candidates on the ballot, but so far seven have raised significant amounts of money and built a campaign infrastructure necessary for a statewide campaign.

The candidates include Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, former Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin, former NAACP chief Ben Jealous, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross, lawyer Jim Shea and Krish Vignarajah, a former aide to Michelle Obama.

Ervin joined the race last week in place of former running mate Kevin Kamenetz, the late Baltimore County executive who died suddenly this month hours after attending a gubernatorial forum. Kamenetz death has reshaped the dynamics of the race, political analysts say, leaving about quarter of voters in search of a new candidate to support and leaving the Baltimore region without a dominant political personality in the race.

Also running are Ralph Jaffe, a teacher running his fifth low-budget campaign in 10 years, and James Hugh Jones II, a Baltimore city man.

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