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Elections

At forum, Maryland Republican candidates for governor, attorney general campaign against pandemic control measures

Appearing together for the first time since they won in last month’s primary elections, candidates for Maryland’s top statewide offices on Saturday outlined their visions for the state and vowed to work hand-in-hand with local leaders if elected in November.

Public health emergency management, police body-camera footage and tax collection were among the topics discussed at a forum that concluded the Maryland Association of Counties conference — an annual four-day marathon of seminars, networking and fundraisers attended by thousands of local, state and federal government officials in Ocean City.

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Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore, whose campaign said he had a scheduling conflict, was the only one of the six major party nominees for governor, attorney general and comptroller who didn’t participate in the forum. Moore attended previous days of the conference.

His Republican opponent, Del. Dan Cox, pointed to Moore’s absence in his remarks. He also told the audience of elected leaders repeatedly that he is the only candidate for governor who has experience in elected office.

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“Unlike my opponent, who is not here today, I will show up for you,” Cox said.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox speaks Saturday during the candidate forum at the Maryland Association of Counties annual summer meeting in Ocean City.

While the forum’s format had Cox and the other candidates answering the same set of questions individually, it was the first chance for the nominees in the attorney general race — Democratic U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown and former Republican Anne Arundel County Councilman Michael Peroutka — and those for comptroller — Democratic Del. Brooke Lierman and Republican Harford County Executive Barry Glassman — to appear jointly as their nominees of their parties’ voters.

Cox, a conservative Republican endorsed by former President Donald Trump, repeatedly stressed local control. Asked about responding to emergencies as governor, he said he would “reconstruct the code” and “modernize” emergency management laws to rein in executive authority and put more power in the hands of local governments.

He also referenced his long-standing feud with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, whom he unsuccessfully sued and tried to impeach over the state’s COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as business shutdowns. Hogan has called Cox “crazy” and is not supporting his campaign.

“I have supported the governor time and time again, but one area that we disagreed on was how the emergency powers were used,” Cox said.

Peroutka has, like Cox, run his campaign primarily on the message that the pandemic measures were not constitutional. He stressed that again Saturday.

“These things were unlawful. It doesn’t matter, by the way, what you thought of the science. Even if you thought — I didn’t think much of the science, personally — but even if you thought the science of all this was perfect, it was still unlawful,” Peroutka said.

Brown, while not specifically mentioning Peroutka, pitched himself as the moderate candidate, rather than one who would fight for the extremes.

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“Marylanders want us to govern in the middle. They want us to find that common ground, to find that consensus. Marylanders reject extreme governance. They always have. Extreme to the right, or extreme to the left.”

Asked about the increasing use of police-worn body cameras and releasing the footage to the public, Brown said it’s a positive step that builds “trust and confidence between police and the community.” He also said the goal “should be to disclose as much as possible,” though he was not specific when asked how the Public Information Act should be amended to balance different interests, such as crime victims’ privacy.

Peroutka said he “wasn’t sure” any changes needed to be made to the law and that decisions to release footage should take into account whether doing so would hamper police investigations of whether crimes occurred.

Maryland Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox of Frederick County speaks Saturday at the Maryland Association of Counties convention in Ocean City.
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Glassman and Lierman, running for a job that oversees state income tax collection, both said they would work closely with county leaders to share data on income taxes that will allow them to more accurately predict incoming revenue.

Glassman — a two-term county executive, former county councilman and legislator — said his time in local government makes him more qualified to know what counties need. Facing a statewide election in which he would need to win over some Democratic and independent voters, he stressed he would keep the office “nonpartisan.”

“We deserve someone that’s not going to work for special interests, certain parties, but stand up and be a strong independent comptroller for everyone,” Glassman said.

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Lierman, a two-term delegate from Baltimore, said she wants to be a comptroller “who embraces creative ideas” while talking about her legislative initiatives to modernize the Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates website and her plan to bring more transparency to the contracting process on the Board of Public Works. The powerful panel, made up of the comptroller, the governor and the state treasurer, approves major state contracts.

“It’s our time in Maryland to really be bold and to do better,” she said.

Moore told reporters Friday night at the conference that he was “very much” looking forward to an eventual debate with Cox.

“The moment that people get a chance to hear us together articulate our vastly different visions for the state and where the state’s going to go, I think more and more people will understand and will come on to our side,” Moore said.


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