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Politics

Governor hopefuls Dan Cox, Wes Moore help distribute water in West Baltimore

Four days into West Baltimore’s water contamination situation and the ensuing boil advisory, the two candidates for Maryland governor hustled just a few neighborhoods apart Thursday to distribute fresh water bottles to residents and talk about the need for accountability during what has been called a health crisis.

“God bless you,” Wes Moore said to nearly every person as he leaned into their front passenger windows or opened their trunks to give them a 24-pack of water bottles outside Wylie’s Funeral Home in Harlem Park.

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Moore, a Democrat who lives in the city, wore a Home Depot apron and handed off the bottles paid for by the company.

Dan Cox, the Republican nominee from Frederick County, met with faith leaders outside Deliverance Temple Sanctuary Ministries and Simmons Memorial Baptist Church in the city’s Penn North and Druid Heights neighborhoods, shaking hands and greeting residents who came by to pick up water.

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Republican Christopher Anderson, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran running for a state Senate seat against incumbent Democrat Antonio Hayes, said Cox reached out to the faith-based community to ask if he could help with water distribution.

“Him giving a helping hand to our efforts is greatly appreciated,” said Anderson, who is supporting Cox in the gubernatorial race.

Cox said he chose to partner with church leadership because “they’re the boots on the ground — they’re the ones making it happen.”

The candidates’ appearances in Baltimore came as parts of the city remained under a boil water advisory after E. coli was detected in several taps in Harlem Park and Sandtown-Winchester over the Labor Day weekend. Some have criticized city government for inadequately notifying residents at first about the advisory, which was scaled back Wednesday but remains in effect for West Baltimore neighborhoods north of Route 40.

Both Moore and Cox spoke broadly about the need for accountability in addressing how the problem occurred and has been handled.

“There needs to be accountability as to when people knew what was happening and how it was communicated to the population,” Moore said. “We will expect there to be full transparency and full accountability as to what happened and why so many of our neighbors are suffering right now.”

Asked if he believes there was a delay in contacting some in the community about the issue, Moore declined to get into specifics other than to say he believes “we’re going to find out more in these next days.”

Cox called the way information about the outbreak was delivered to the public an “outrage.”

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“I’d like to see faster action,” he said. “We have elected leadership here in Baltimore City that I’m sure is working on this but, unfortunately, we don’t see a lot of quick responses. We didn’t see immediate notifications, we’re not seeing the systemic changes happening, we’re not seeing information as to why this occurred and how it’s going to be fixed so it doesn’t happen again. All of these things need to be addressed.”

Cox, who has not been in contact with Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration regarding the issue, said there’s “no reason” the city can’t have “trucks — semis being brought in” to help distribute water.

“Why is it that we are having to do this on a smaller scale when we could — really, immediately — ramp that up?” he asked.

Moore has often talked during the campaign about addressing critical infrastructure needs in communities like Baltimore by leveraging new federal funding. He said the “crisis” this week illustrates the need to boost spending for “communities that have dealt with historic and generational neglect.”

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He described his presence and “hands-on” approach as “an illustration about how I plan on leading if I’m fortunate enough to head to Annapolis in January.”

Brandon Wylie, president of the funeral home, where Moore and his supporters disbursed five pallets stacked with water bottles in a couple of hours, said it was important Moore and other leaders were there in person.

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“We always want our elected officials to be present,” he said. “People have a level of comfort and support knowing that their leaders are in a position to make sure that they provide for their communities.”

Cox said that, if elected, he’d like to partner with city leadership to determine what tools they need to secure a safer water supply in the long-term.

“People matter,” Cox said. “This is our beautiful city and the beautiful children that we just saw here are really in danger if we don’t take proper action as elected officials. That’s the least that we should be doing.”

With about two months until Election Day, Moore and Cox have been traveling the state as they meet voters and raise money in hopes of succeeding two-term outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 18, and the deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Nov. 1. One week of early voting begins Oct. 27, and Election Day is Nov. 8.


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