The campaign of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan campaign said Wednesday that the governor will debate Democratic challenger Ben Jealous twice in September — but the Jealous camp says it has not agreed to a debate schedule.
Hogan’s campaign announced that the governor would engage in one-hour televised debates on Sept. 17 and Sept. 24.
Jealous’ team said it has not committed to those dates.
“We haven’t agreed to any debates, so I’m not sure what the Hogan campaign is referring to,” said Kevin Harris, a senior adviser to the Jealous campaign.
Harris said Jealous wants more than two debates, and wants them in October, when voters are paying closer attention to the election. Election Day is Nov. 6. Early voting starts Oct. 25.
Harris said the campaigns have not discussed a debate schedule. He said some media organizations have approached the Jealous campaign about possible debate dates.
“What we said to all of them is that we wanted to have a conversation with the Hogan campaign first to figure out what each side would deem is fair,” Harris said.
Harris said his team hadn’t yet reached out to the Hogan team about debates because “we’ve only been the nominee for three weeks.”
Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the Hogan campaign, said there was no need to discuss a debate schedule with the Jealous campaign.
Hogan accepted invitations to a debate on Sept. 17 hosted by Maryland Public Television, WBAL-TV, The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore, and another on Sept. 24 hosted by WJLA-TV in Washington and The Washington Post.
“We got invitations from those groups. … We accepted them,” Mayer said. “They received the same invitations. Either they’re going to accept them or not. The governor has, and looks forward to seeing Mr. Jealous there.”
Harris questioned the Hogan team’s motives for announcing a debate schedule before the sides had discussed it.
“This, to us, seems like a scare tactic,” he said. “It seems to us to be a governor who does not want to have his record scrutinized and who doesn’t want to defend his record.”
Harris said he was “hopeful” that the two campaigns could still meet to talk about the debate schedule.
Hogan is trying to become the first Republican governor re-elected in Maryland since Theodore McKeldin in 1954.
If the schedule stands at two debates, Maryland voters will have fewer opportunities to see the gubernatorial candidates go head-to-head on television than they had four years ago.
In 2014, Hogan and Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown debated on television three times, all in October.
Their running mates also debated on radio.
The Hogan and Brown campaigns sparred over the number of debates that year. Hogan called for five television debates and two on radio. Brown proposed two on television and one on radio.
The two televised debates between Hogan and Jealous this fall would also contrast with the Democratic primary this spring. The large field of Democratic candidates appeared in five televised debates.