On Tuesday, voters will go to the polls to decide whether Republican Gov. Larry Hogan gets another term or whether Democrat Ben Jealous will move into Government House for the next four years. Hundreds of thousands of Marylanders have already cast their ballots during early voting, but we'll bet some of you have yet to make up your minds about which gubernatorial candidate to support. The Sun's editorial board endorsed Governor Hogan for re-election, but that doesn't mean we agree with him on every issue. Mr. Jealous is, in our opinion, stronger in his approach to some important problems facing the state, Mr. Hogan is better on others, and on some, it's a tough call.
Before we made our decision, we interviewed both candidates at length and asked them a common set of questions so we could compare their answers side-by-side. Here are the highlights of the questions we asked, how they both answered and our take on whose ideas are better.
What we asked: Please discuss your views on the Kirwan Commission's recommendations. Are there any elements that you disagree with, or ones you believe are a higher priority? What is your commitment to funding the implementation of the recommendations, and how will Maryland pay for it? Are you confident this round of reforms will improve academic outcomes?
What Hogan said: Governor Hogan demurred on the specifics of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (the Kirwan Commission's formal name) on the grounds that they have not been finalized. But he expressed a general willingness to increase education funding and emphasized his record in funding education and steps he has already taken in concert with the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly to begin setting aside money for that purpose.
What Jealous said: Mr. Jealous reiterated his pledge to pay for universal, high-quality pre-K by legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use. He emphasized the need to make sure schools in every jurisdiction of the state benefit from Kirwan, and he criticized Maryland's leaders for allowing a backlog of deferred maintenance to build up in the schools. He has the endorsement of the Maryland State Education Association and has promised a large raise for teachers.
Our take: This is a tough call. Neither one really answered the question of how they would pay for Kirwan, which could run into the billions of dollars per year. Mr. Hogan has sometimes in the past needed to be dragged by Democrats into providing extra funds for Baltimore's schools, but he's draggable. Mr. Jealous doesn't need to be dragged. A crucial measure of Kirwan's success will be whether it comes with stronger accountability measures to ensure that school districts spend the extra funds in the ways the commission found to be most beneficial. We think Mr. Hogan would be more likely to ensure that. For that reason, we give Mr. Hogan the edge on this issue.
What we asked: We disagreed strongly with Governor Hogan's decision to kill the Red Line, but we also do not believe it is realistic for candidates to promise that it can be resurrected. BaltimoreLink appears to have been at most a modest improvement in the regional transit system. What realistic next steps can you take to improve Baltimoreans' ability to access jobs and opportunities, and how will Maryland pay for those investments?
What Jealous said: He isn't giving up on the Red Line, saying he would re-start what would likely be a decade-long process to get back in line for federal funding. In the meantime, he wants investments in bus rapid transit, improvements in the regular bus system's routes and reliability, and better on-demand services for those who rely on the MTA's mobility services.
What Hogan said: He lauded BaltimoreLink as the biggest improvement in the bus system in 30 years and said he would be willing to look at expansions of the system (including light rail) if it made sense. But mainly, he touted his administration's investments in highways.
Our take: Mr. Jealous wins this one, hands down. Governor Hogan's transportation policy is straight out of the 1950s.
What we asked: Maryland had good news recently with the reduction in premiums for health insurance on the individual market, but that solution may not be permanent and only affects one part of the health care landscape. What are the next steps Maryland should take to make heath care more accessible and affordable?
What Hogan said: The governor emphasized his administration's success in working with Maryland's health care stakeholders to renew and expand the state's Medicare waiver with the federal government (and to get the Trump administration to sign off on it), and his work with the legislature on a reinsurance program that led to lower rates on Maryland's Obamacare exchange. He said he's open to efforts to rein in prescription drug costs.
What Jealous said: The Democrat would establish a two-year study process to move Maryland toward a single-payer, Medicare for all system. He supports a new regulatory body for prescription drugs, re-importation of drugs from Canada and other measures to reduce their prices.
Our take: Hogan wins this one. His track record shows his commitment to expanding health care access and a pragmatic approach to improving quality while lowering costs. Mr. Jealous may be better on prescription drugs, but his quest for singe-payer is Quixotic. It would require a massive upending of Maryland's health care system and economy and would require approvals by the federal government that are extraordinarily unlikely.
What we asked: Two years after Maryland declared a state of emergency related to opioid addiction, overdoses continue unabated. What more can we do to address this epidemic?
What Jealous said: Mr. Jealous criticized Governor Hogan for not doing enough to fund treatment. He said he would work to expand access to the anti-overdose drug Naloxone and would sue pharmaceutical companies over their role in fostering the opioid addiction epidemic.
What Hogan said: His administration has tackled the problem from all angles: education, law enforcement and public health. He declared a state of emergency and used state resources to coordinate state and local responses, and he increased funding for treatment, but he acknowledged that it hasn't been enough.
Our take: Both candidates clearly treat this issue as a top priority. We give a slight edge to Mr. Jealous based on his willingness to expand medication assisted addiction treatment in prisons, which the Hogan administration has been reluctant to do.
What we asked: Both you and your opponent have introduced plans to make post-secondary education more affordable. Why is your plan better?
What Hogan said: The Republican touted his investments in community colleges and four-year colleges and universities, which he says held down tuition increases and allowed for more need-based financial aid. He signed legislation to allow free community college for lower-income families and wants to expand it to allow recipients to earn four-year degrees tuition free. He also wants to make student loan interest fully deductible on Maryland income taxes.
What Jealous said: Mr. Jealous has a more expansive plan to provide free community college and ultimately four-year college, regardless of a family's ability to pay. He would fund it through further criminal justice reforms he says would allow Maryland to reduce its prison population by a third.
Our take: Hogan wins this one. We don't need to invest public funds in providing free college for the wealthy. And while Maryland's Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act could have gone farther, the level of savings Mr. Jealous is projecting would be difficult and possibly impossible to achieve without releasing violent offenders.
What we asked: What additional steps can the state take to reduce violent crime in Baltimore? What resources would you commit to that effort?
What Jealous said: The former NAACP president and CEO offered detailed ideas for reforms to policing to restore community trust in the department as well as specific plans for steps Baltimore could take to reduce violent crime. He promised to be an active partner to the mayor in the crime fight.
What Hogan said: The incumbent detailed the resources he has committed to helping the Baltimore police department and said he would be open to doing more to ameliorate its understaffing. He said his administration has and would continue to work closely with the city to monitor potentially dangerous parolees and to execute arrest warrants.
Our take: Much of what Mr. Jealous said would be better suited to a mayoral campaign, but the state government does have a big say in crucial Baltimore police reforms, like the inclusion of civilians on trial boards. Mr. Jealous gets the edge here.
What we asked: The next governor will play a crucial role in determining how Maryland's congressional and legislative districts are drawn after the 2020 census. How would you handle that role?
What Hogan said: The governor has repeatedly sought to enact legislation creating a non-partisan redistricting commission, but the legislature has refused to act on it. He said he would continue to pursue such reforms in a second term.
What Jealous said: Mr. Jealous has backed away from a promise to use redistricting to lock down and even expand Democrats 7-1 advantage in Maryland's House delegation. But he says he would only seek redistricting reform in concert with other states where the process has benefited Republicans.
Our take: Big advantage for Mr. Hogan here. Saying we need to handle redistricting reform on a multi-state or national basis is a recipe for doing nothing.
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