Maryland Gubernatorial Candidates Spar over Health Exchange, Taxes

May 8, 2014

The leading Democratic candidates for Maryland governor sparred Wednesday over health care, the death penalty and corporate taxes in a spirited first debate that featured an unusually combative performance from front-runner Anthony G. Brown.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler used the face-off at the University of Maryland at College Park to continue his attacks on Brown’s handling of the state’s online health insurance marketplace, which Gansler called “an unmitigated disaster.”

“I think the lieutenant governor is the only person that believes it’s been a success,” Gansler said, a position he characterized as “relatively delusional.”

Brown threw several elbows as well, criticizing Gansler for his past support of the death penalty, which lawmakers repealed last year, and arguing that Gansler’s plan to cut corporate taxes would undercut the state’s efforts to expand pre-kindergarten education.

Brown also sharply questioned Gansler’s judgment in not breaking up a teen beach party in Delaware at which there was apparent underage drinking last year. Gansler’s son was at the party, and Gansler stopped by to talk to him.

The third Democrat on stage, Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery), largely stayed out of the fray, refraining from attacks on either of her two better-known opponents and arguing that she has a record of working collaboratively to get things done.

“This race is not about personal bickering,” Mizeur said. “People want leadership.”

The hour-long televised event, hosted by “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory, was the first of at least three debates expected before a June 24 primary in which the candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who is term-limited. Four Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2 to 1 in the state.

The Democrats were divided Wednesday night over whether the state should legalize marijuana, following legislation passed by the General Assembly to impose only civil fines for possession of small amounts of the drug.

Mizeur voiced support for regulating and taxing marijuana, saying Maryland should follow the lead of Colorado and Washington state. Both Brown and Gansler said such a move would be premature until more is known about the impact of legalization elsewhere.

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