Maryland U.S. Senate hopefuls Edwards, Van Hollen agree to four debates

Maryland U.S. Senate hopefuls Edwards, Van Hollen agree to four debates
Rep. Donna F. Edwards , right has accused Rep. Chris Van Hollen of being open to cutting Social Security benefits . The Democrats are both running for Senate. (Baltimore Sun)

The two leading Maryland Democrats running to replace retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski have agreed to four debates, including two that will be broadcast on television, the campaigns said in a joint statement Friday.

Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen provided the details for two of those debates. The first will take place on March 18 on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show. The second -- organized by The Baltimore Sun, the University of Baltimore, WJZ-TV and the League of Women Voters -- will take place on March 25.


The debate will be broadcast on WJZ-TV three days later, on March 28.

The campaigns said they expect to announce two additional debates -- including one more to be broadcast on television -- at a later time.

Edwards and Van Hollen also announced two forums, one organized by the Maryland Federation of National Active and Retired Federal Employees and Professional Women of Maryland for April 9 and the other to be led by the Prince George's County-based Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt Democratic Club on March 18.

The primary is set for April 26.

Although Van Hollen and Edwards broadly agree on most policies -- both are considered liberal Democrats in their caucus -- the two have tussled over Social Security, trade and a handful of other issues. Edwards has worked to cast herself as more progressive, while Van Hollen has sought to tout his legislative record.

The most recent public polling in the contest, conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing, found the two within the margin of error, with a quarter of voters undecided. Van Hollen, meanwhile, has a significant cash advantage.

The two candidates had a feisty exchange at an early forum organized by the Maryland Chapter of the National Organization for Women in May. They have not debated since then.

Edwards, in October, called for six debates with Van Hollen, evenly split between the Baltimore and Washington media markets. Van Hollen had initially said he wanted more than six debates, but it was never clear if he was including forums, as well as debates, in his calculation.

The two campaigns have been negotiating the terms -- quietly, without the kind of public sniping that can often accompany such talks -- for months.

The campaigns offered no detail Friday about the length or format of the events.

Five Republicans running for Senate held their first debate at Goucher College on Thursday night, though a leading candidate for the GOP nomination, Del. Kathy Szeliga, did not attend.

Because of incorrect information provided to The Sun, an earlier version of this post included the wrong date for the Maryland Federation of NARFE forum. It will be held April 9.