Democratic hopefuls in the Maryland gubernatorial race are making the rounds as the June 26 primary nears, pitching varying platforms, but all with a common underlying theme: beat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
During a recent candidates’ forum at Reid Temple AME Church in Glenn Dale, the participants gave different viewpoints on how to improve the state, most which centered around ousting the incumbent.
“We just don’t want to make sure that our children and grandchildren have the same opportunities that we have in in this state, [but] we want to make sure they have better opportunities for your children and your grandchildren,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz told the audience at the April 25 forum, organized by the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee. “Let’s take this state back.”
Tech entrepreneur called Hogan “a wet-finger politician,” i.e., one who determines which way the political winds are blowing on an issue before taking a stance.
Defeating Hogan isn’t going to be easy. The popular governor, who is running unopposed for the Republican nomination, maintains a 69 percent approval rating among Marylanders with almost six months before the Nov. 6 general election, according to a Goucher College poll released last month.
Though at least 22 percent of voters polled “don’t know” who they would choose between Hogan and the Democratic candidates, the poll showed Hogan fared better than Democratic leadership on several topics:
• State budget and finances: Hogan at 55 percent; Democrats 28 percent;
• Transportation and infrastructure: Hogan at 45 percent; Democrats 36 percent;
• Economic development and job creation: Hogan at 49 percent; Democrats 35 percent;
• Taxes: Hogan at 47 percent; Democrats 35 percent; and
• Crime and criminal justice: Hogan at 48 percent; Democrat 32 percent.
The poll also shows at least 44 percent would vote for the incumbent. Former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III are the closest contenders at 31 percent.
“Gov. Hogan has spent his four years in office working to change Maryland for the better,” Hogan campaign spokesman Scott Sloofman in a statement. “It’s gratifying to see that, once again, the overwhelming majority of Marylanders approve of the job the governor is doing and are happy with the direction the state is going in.”
The state’s Republican Party also took a swipe at Baker in a video labeled “Courage” posted online Thursday, April 26, comparing the county executive to the Cowardly Lion from “Wizard of Oz” for his leadership on the maligned Prince George’s public schools system.
At the Glenn Dale forum, the eight candidates in attendance received questions on topics such as mass incarceration, climate change and criminal justice reform and the proposed high-speed train project known as Maglev.
The candidates didn’t always have the opportunity to answer the same question as their opponents. For instance, Baker had to calmly sit and listen as three of his opponents — Kamenetz, Ross and Jealous — give on their ideas to provide better education opportunities for students in Prince George’s.
The county’s school system faced several controversies the past two years, but earlier this month state lawmakers in the Senate didn’t move out of committee legislation to restructure the school board.
Members in the House of Delegates approved a bill to allow elected members select the vice chair and eight of the 14 members to vote on any item contrary to the schools chief, as well as create an inspector general’s office to oversee the school system.
But because the legislation didn’t move, the current school board structure will remain the same Baker helped institute nearly six years ago.
Jealous has said schools CEO Kevin Maxwell should resign and said Wednesday he’s the only candidate to make that proclamation.
State Sen. Richard Madaleno of Montgomery County, Baltimore attorney Jim Shea and Krish Vignarajah, former policy director for first lady Michelle Obama, all agreed on the state must attack climate change.
If elected, Vignarajah said she would ensure the state produces 50 percent clean energy by 2026.
Political neophyte James Jones II, a chaplain for the Baltimore City Police Department, said all returning citizens would receive job training.
“They need jobs,” he said.
The only Democratic hopeful not in attendance was Ralph Jaffe, a perennial candidate from Baltimore County.