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Politics

Five takeaways from what’s clearly the only debate between Maryland gubernatorial candidates Wes Moore and Dan Cox

As Election Day inches closer, Democrat Wes Moore and Republican Dan Cox were fiery and sharp-tongued during the televised Maryland gubernatorial debate Wednesday.

Hosted by Maryland Public Television and WBAL-TV, an NBC affiliate, the debate was the only event of its kind agreed to by both candidates.

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Here are some things we learned from the faceoff.

This will absolutely not happen again

Moore, who has declined several invitations to gubernatorial debates and forums so as not to give Cox a platform, agreed in late August to participate in Wednesday’s debate. Unless plans change, it was the only time the candidates will go head-to-head onstage.

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Asked after the debate whether he regretted agreeing to participate in only one against Cox, Moore quickly responded, “No, I’m good.”

Many of Dan Cox's debate answers were consistent with his campaign themes of giving parents more information and rights in their children’s education, opposing the pandemic lockdown measures, cutting taxes and “restoring freedoms.” Here, he speaks with reporters after the debate.

Insults over answers

Both Cox and Moore spent a fair amount of time attacking each other’s credibility rather than answering questions from the panelists.

For example, Moore had to be redirected to the substance of a question about how to reassure voters about election integrity after he spent his initial response time reading a tweet posted by Cox in January 2021 about how he was “co-hosting buses” to the “Stop the Steal” rally outside the Trump White House shortly before rioters overtook the U.S. Capitol to protest the certification of the results of the 2020 election.

“I want to read something: ‘I am co-hosting two buses to the million MAGA March/rally with the Frederick County Conservative Club in support of @realDonaldTrump on January 6, 2021, To #stopthesteal. Demand no #ChinaBiden.’ Those are the words of my opponent,” Moore said.

And, when asked about his solutions to address health disparities for people who live in industrial areas, Cox used nearly all of the time afforded for his answer to attack Moore’s policy on electric cars and his former role as CEO of Robin Hood, an anti-poverty nonprofit organization based in New York City.

Cox has chosen to sidle up to … Gov. Larry Hogan?

Asked how both candidates would grade Hogan’s eight years as governor, Moore responded, “He’s not done yet, so it’s incomplete.”

Cox, on the other hand, gave Hogan, whom he sued over Hogan’s public health precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and attempted to impeach during the 2022 legislative session, an “A on everything except the differences of opinion we’ve had on the COVID,” and said he’s “stood with the governor” on issues related to police funding and lowering tax rates.

Cox has been a persona non grata in Hogan’s office the past few years, leading the sitting governor to call him a “QAnon whack job” and publicly declare that he does not support his campaign and will not vote for him in November.

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Wes Moore referred during the debate to his campaign mantra of “leave no one behind,” talking about expanding access and equity in government services and calling out what he views as Dan Cox’s extremist policies. Here, Moore talks with reporters after the debate.

Policy-wise, both candidates were business as usual

Though they argued constantly over what was true and what was false, the candidates largely stuck to their scripts. After months of campaigning, neither Moore nor Cox made any allegations or introduced any policy plans they haven’t already touched on the campaign trail.

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For Cox, many of his answers were consistent with his campaign themes of giving parents more information and rights in their children’s education, opposing the pandemic lockdown measures, cutting taxes and “restoring freedoms” — all topics approached more with broad brushstrokes than specific policy proposals.

”I will be the only balance possible because one-party rule is not the way of the future of Maryland,” Cox said, referring to Democrats likely maintaining control of the General Assembly in the next session.

For Moore, it was about frequently referring to his campaign mantra of “leave no one behind,” talking about expanding access and equity in government services and calling out what he views as Cox’s extremist policies.

”Freedom is not an empty word to me. My life could have gone a very different way after my dad died. I could have been left behind,” Moore said, referring to the death of his father when he was 3 years old. “But I’m running for governor because we can do better.”

Cox still won’t say whether he’ll accept the outcome of the election

Cox, who recently lost an appeal in the state’s highest court to stop the counting of mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day, has been asked in numerous arenas whether he will accept the results of the general election, win or lose. He has never provided an answer.

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Questioned again on the debate stage Wednesday, Cox dodged answering, saying he has “always accepted election results that are fair and that are following the Constitution.” He compared the question to assessing the results of a surgical procedure before the operation has begun.

“It would be similar to saying that before a surgery takes place to ... to decide whether or not the surgery went well,” he told panelists. “That is why the statute of Maryland actually protects Democrats [and] Republicans alike to say there’s a process that has to be followed, and every single candidate on the ballot has a right to that process, and I intend to uphold that process.”


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