Ehrlich, O'Malley finally schedule debate on WJZ

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. sparred for months over the format and forum for a political debate, and finally agreed Thursday to one that will air on Baltimore's WJZ-TV.

The candidates will tape an hourlong debate, moderated by veteran anchor Denise Koch and sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council, at 10 a.m. Oct. 11 in the station's studio. It will air at 7 that evening, a prime-time slot.

"We are very pleased that both candidates ... have agreed to a debate," said WJZ vice president and general manager Jay Newman. He said he and Art Abramson, director of the Jewish council, negotiated with the campaigns for weeks. "We'll offer an opportunity for both candidates to present their views on the most important issues facing Maryland."

Both O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese and Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth said the candidates are looking forward to the forum.

Each candidate will give opening and closing remarks, Newman said, and will discuss five to seven issues. Newman said the station will solicit questions from viewers. The debate is expected to be simulcast on WYPR, a National Public Radio station in Baltimore, Newman said.

O'Malley and Ehrlich went head to head on WJZ four years ago, too. That debate, which also was moderated by Koch and aired in prime time on a Monday in mid-October, "did very, very well in the ratings," Newman said, reaching about 150,000 viewers.

The debate comes on a day in which the candidates also are scheduled to appear together before the Maryland Disabilities Forum at a hotel in Linthicum Heights.