The Democratic primary race for governor is so crowded that the winner may only need 125,000 of Maryland's 2 million Democrats to secure the nomination. The low threshold has launched unusual strategies from candidates seeking to win not the majority of voters, just the most voters.
It was yet another in a long string of forums in which all of the candidates were nice to each other. Nobody tried to belittle a rival with an insulting nickname. Nobody confronted another candidate in a direct manner. No tempers were lost. In a way, it illustrated why pro wrestling has heroes and villains.
For the most part, even the "outsider" candidates appeared rather inside at the forum.
Ross made a stab at rebelling against orthodoxy when he said he was unhappy with the Democratic Party because for a long time it had used rhetoric implying a young person had to go to a four-year college to be a winner. He promised that as governor he would put increased emphasis on vocational programs for the skilled trades.
His effort to differentiate fell flat when every other candidate on stage said roughly the same thing.
"We've got to de-stigmatize the trades," said Krish Vignarajah, the former Obama White House official who was the only woman on the stage.
The only notable gaffe of the night came in a discussion of transportation in which all of the candidates agreed that Hogan had severely hurt Baltimore by canceling the $3 billion Red Line light rail project.
Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III was one of several candidates who spoke of a need to revive the project. Only he called it the Purple Line, the Washington-area project Hogan allowed to go through at the same time he killed the Baltimore system.
None of his rivals was unkind enough to point out the error.
Shea introduced a moment of candor to the discussion when he pointed out that the Red Line would not be so easy to revive since Hogan decided to turn away the nearly $1 billion the federal government had been poised to contribute to the Woodlawn-to-Bayview project under the Obama administration.
"We have to go back to the beginning of the queue, but right now under Donald Trump there is no queue," he said.
For the most part the candidates sounded familiar themes.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Baker boasted of their accomplishments in the seven years they have led their jurisdictions.
Kamenetz emphasized the cut in unemployment on his watch and holding the line on taxes. Baker spoke of cleaning up corruption in a county where his predecessor went to federal prison.
"We ended the pay-to-play culture by passing tough, equitable reforms," he said.
Madaleno emphasized his decades of experience in state government, including 20 years in the General Assembly. He emphasized that he wasn't just a guy from Montgomery by calling for an expansion Baltimore's Howard Street Tunnel and having the state pay more for city road projects.
Jealous boasted of his recent endorsement by the Maryland State Education Association.
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