Hogan clearly wins debate on points

By Richard E. Vatz

Towson University 

First, some of the strengths of the debate format:  the moderator, Jeff Salkin, who has a rare lifetime reputation for fairness, and the questioners were utterly unbiased, and none of them put his or her finger on the scale in favor of either candidate.

Both candidates consistently interrupted each other but were chastised equally by the moderator.  No questioners tried to become the star of the debate – good judgment.

To have only one debate makes the debate both relatively significant, since it is the only direct clash between the candidates, and independently not very significant since one hour between an incumbent and a challenger is barely enough time to allow the challenger to introduce himself.

Gubernatorial debates between incumbents and challengers are about one general issue:  has the governor not done his job well, such that the incumbent can raise issues that he/she would correct.

The major issues comprised, among others, support for education, the Maryland economy, reduction of the incarcerated criminal population, and the tenor of the debate itself.  Regarding the last, Hogan claimed that Jealous was not a life-long or even a very recent Marylander, to which Jealous said that Hogan was a “liar,” and that he, Jealous, had not long been a Marylander because his parents were unable to legally marry in Maryland.

Jealous strangely brought up the allegation that the Republicans typically reference Willie Horton, whom Hogan said he did not bring up.  Horton was part of a 30-year-old campaign ad by Vice President George H.W. Bush against Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis regarding irresponsible prison furlough programs which set Horton free to murder.

Jealous also tried to tie Hogan to Betsy DeVos, which connection Hogan called innocuous, and claimed after the debate that Hogan refused for “five minutes” to answer what his plans were to help Maryland, but each time Hogan tried to specifically address that question, Jealous talked over him.  In addition, he listed innumerable programs he had effected for Maryland.

Jealous never specified how reducing the criminal population would lead to a safer Baltimore or Maryland.

Jealous claimed that Hogan presided over a state that had failed in education, transportation, health care, violence in schools and in the state in general.  Hogan detailed expenditures in all of these areas and gave an opposite accounting of how successful Maryland has been.  Hogan also saw the Red Line as a boondoggle and cited agreement from the progressive Washington Post.

It was a bit strange for Jealous to blame the governor for the violence and killing fields of Maryland and Baltimore without mentioning Baltimore’s Mayor Catherine Pugh, but there was a certain component of rhetorical wild swings and missed haymakers by the challenger.

Both men seemed confident and aggressive, but if one evaluates a gubernatorial debate the way one evaluates heavyweight boxing championships, with a presumption for the incumbent, Hogan clearly took this one on points.

*Vatz is a professor at Towson University and is the benefactor of the “Richard E. Vatz Best Debater Award.”