Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and his Democratic challenger Ben Jealous faced off Monday at Maryland Public Television for their only debate of the governor’s race. It was the first time the two men had met in person.
Here are six takeaways from the encounter, which will be streamed at 7 p.m. Monday on baltimoresun.com, as well as airing on MPT, WBAL-TV and WBAL-AM:
1. Hogan and Jealous appear to live in starkly different Marylands.
To Jealous, Maryland is a place where the economy is lagging, health care costs are surging, crime is on the rise and public schools are falling behind.
Hogan, however, sees the state as experiencing “one of the greatest economic turnarounds in America.” He said it sounded like Jealous was living in a “dream world.”
How voters view the state of the state — and the state of their pocketbooks — will likely influence who they think won the contest.
2. The debate got spicy.
The candidates repeatedly ignored their time limits and talked over each other. Early on, Hogan criticized a reporter’s question and accused Jealous of speaking falsehoods.
“Not a single word you said was true,” the governor said to Jealous after a question on the economy. “You can’t just keep making up stories.”
At one point, Jealous urged Hogan to go his campaign website to correct what Jealous said was the governor’s misunderstanding of the Democrat’s plans.
“I’m not going to go to benjealous.com,” Hogan said.
3. There was a third person on stage: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
President Donald Trump’s education secretary was referenced more than the president himself, who is deeply unpopular in Maryland.
A pro-Jealous PAC is running negative ads against Hogan, trying to tie him to DeVos. Jealous repeatedly invoked her, while Hogan tried to minimize the connection.
The governor said he appeared with DeVos when she read to students at a Maryland school.
4. Jealous had a big moment when he talked about why his parents had to leave Maryland decades ago.
Hogan repeatedly portrayed Jealous as an outsider from California (where residents have donated generously to Jealous) who lacks a deep enough understanding of Maryland to lead the state.
But the Democrat had a strong counter. Jealous cited his parents' interracial marriage as why his family moved.
"If you're wondering why I didn't grow up here, sir, it's because my parents' marriage was against the law,” Jealous said.
5. Jealous presented himself as a candidate of bold, new ideas, while Hogan tried to throw cold water on his plans.
Jealous wants to create a Medicare-for-all system for the state, institute debt-free college, give teachers a large raise and reduce the prison population by 30 percent.
“Folks will tell you the things I want to do are hard. And they’re right. Nothing worth doing is easy,” Jealous said.
Maryland Policy & Politics
By contrast, Jealous said Hogan has offered no plans to move Maryland forward.
Hogan repeatedly portrayed Jealous’ ideas as too expensive or, in his words, “reckless.” Of Jealous’ proposal to raise teacher pay by 29 percent, Hogan said the Democrat has “no ability to deliver” on his promise.
Hogan also took aim at Jealous’ plan to shrink the prison population by 30 percent.
“Some of your proposals are reckless but this one is downright dangerous,” Hogan said.
6. The post-debate spin has begun.
The Jealous campaign says his performance marked a “turning point” in the race (where he has trailed badly in the polls). Political observers agreed that Jealous had a stronger performance Monday than he did during debates in the Democratic primary, when he sometimes stumbled. Several called the debate with Hogan a “draw.”
The Hogan camp declared victory, but predicted the race — and the incumbent governor’s lead — will be unmoved by what observers are calling a fiercely contested debate.