Ben Jealous and Larry Hogan, two candidates running for Maryland governor in the Nov. 6 election, met for the only scheduled debate of the campaign on Monday. Other candidates running for Maryland governor include Ian Schlakman of the Green Party and Shawn Quinn of the Libertarian Party, who were not present for the debate.
Republican incumbent Hogan and Democrat Jealous, former president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), discussed a wide range of topics, including how to stimulate economic growth and what to do about the state’s troubled Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
The candidates’ views differed on subjects such as educational achievement statistics and labor force participation rates.
Hogan discussed his belief that he succeeded in raising wages in Maryland and shepherding the state through one of the best economic turnarounds in the region.
Jealous, however, disagreed strongly. He claimed that Maryland actually has relatively poor economic growth and sluggish job growth numbers, compared to other nearby states. Hogan refused to accept Jealous’ figures.
The debate turned to the topic of Maryland’s schools. Jealous claimed that Maryland schools experienced a steep drop in student achievement rankings under Hogan. Hogan insisted that this was merely the result of his administration adopting a less exclusionary testing system than his predecessor, which naturally resulted in less inflated numbers.
The two candidates furthered the argument through more personal attacks. Although Hogan later denied the charge, Jealous accused the governor of trying to use Jealous’ long-time California residency as a political smear. Jealous went on to declare his commitment, and his family’s commitment, to the welfare of Maryland citizens.
Jealous stated that the only reason he didn’t grow up in Maryland was because his parents were not permitted to be married in the state. His parents wanted to get married in 1966, but the legalization of interracial marriage was not enforced by the government in many southern states until 1967.
“They fell in love as school teachers at Harlem Park Junior High [in Baltimore], and they had to leave. I was sent back here every summer, because this is home, and I’ve come back here every chance I got, because this is home. I’m proud of my history in the state and I won’t let you or anybody else lie about who I am or where I’m from,” Jealous said.
The debate also touched on the fact that, although Hogan is a Republican governor, the state went 60 percent for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 61 percent for President Barack Obama in 2012.
Hogan expressed his dislike of being too involved with national politics and pointed to his strengthening of Maryland’s gun laws, while fielding a question on the recent string of mass shootings in the state. More directly, Hogan emphasized the ways he had distanced himself from President Donald Trump and his administration.
Hogan said that he had not voted for Trump in the 2016 election and that he was one of the few governors to withdraw their states’ National Guard resources from the U.S.-Mexico border after the family separation policy was implemented.
Jealous, however, indicated that he would seek to create even more ground between the federal government and Maryland’s state government. Several times throughout the night Jealous pointed at Hogan for having appeared with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a visit to Montgomery County Public Schools.
The two men addressed issues within the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Jealous stressed a continuity he saw between Hogan and other national Republican figures, accusing the governor of playing on racialized fears about criminality.
Some Hopkins students were less certain about the actual effects of the debate, even before the event itself.
Freshman Duncan Parke grew up in Baltimore and is very concerned about what he sees as the neglect of the city and its vital structures, including schools, public transit infrastructure and health care resources. This led him to support Jealous for governor.
However, in light of polling data showing Jealous behind Hogan, Parke stated that a debate may only be able to help him to an extent.
“Admittedly, Hogan is a very well-liked governor and with a clear reason. Being Republican, and being anti-Trump: That takes guts, to go against your party,” Parke said.
Parke expressed dissatisfaction with the campaigns only being able to participate in one debate.
Maryland voters will go to the polls on Nov. 6 to decide whether Hogan or Jealous will be the next governor.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the candidacy of Green Party candidate Ian Schlakman and Libertarian Party candidate Shawn Quinn.