Larry Hogan's presentation was flawless. He appeared calm, honest, prepared, confident, and ready to rumble, while never coming off as aggressive or arrogant. He answered all accusations emphatically and without hesitation. He was not phased at all by being in "enemy territory." He is not one of those guys who only feels comfortable talking to a crowd of supporters.
While I was impressed with how he presented himself, I was even more impressed with what he had to say and not just how he said it. He answered each question without avoiding any topic, only going off topic once briefly to defend himself against a Brown accusation that was not allowed a rebuttal.
It began with Anthony Brown's opening statement where he immediately talked about he and O'Malley's accomplishments ("we've accomplished"). He did not shy away from his connection to the governor and the policies of that administration, mentioning specifically that Maryland is leading the nation in Education and also the states' AAA bond rating. He then quickly veered away from O'Malley saying that he is not looking to the past, but wants rather to talk about the future. He mentioned his military experience and then said that he was "on a different mission." He finished with what seemed to be his mantra for the evening: He will get up every morning and fight for working families and middle class values, claiming that Hogan was for favoring a small group of the wealthy and large corporations. This was repeated word-for-word several times. Hogan was not having it.
Hogan's opening statement was about why he was running and it basically was a list of what he called "the failures" of the O'Malley-Brown administration. He said that he was fed up with the politicians in Annapolis, stating that he is not a politician, but rather a small business owner. He mentioned the over-40 tax hikes, $10B out of the pockets of working families, the 8,000 businesses that left the state, the high unemployment rate compared to the rest of the country, and the "mass exodus" of people leaving the state to relocate elsewhere with less regulations and taxes. He got my attention. BAM!
1. TAXES: WILL YOU LOWER OR AT LEAST NOT RAISE OR CREATE NEW TAXES?
Brown said, "Let me be clear [where have we heard that before?], there will be no new taxes." He stated that everything that the administration has done has been to attract businesses. He said that his tax relief will start with the middle class, while he accused Hogan of planning to give $300M in tax giveaways to wealthy corporations. He again stated that he will be fighting for working middle-class families.
Brown's rebuttal was to warn voters not to "go back" to raised college tuition and congested streets, implying that Hogan was somehow responsible for these problems, which he and O'Malley corrected. He then named one success story, Armor All, which he claimed is now second in the world in their industry thanks to he and O'Malley's business policies.
can not afford it. He said the issue was an election ploy. BAM!
4. ENVIRONMENT: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE STORM WATER MANAGEMENT FEE?
Hogan said that the Bay is a valued asset and top priority, but he would not blame the farmers or the rain. He stated that no one has looked at management of sediment (43-percent) from the Conowingo Dam. He would look to the Federal government, the EPA, and Army Core of Engineers, along with the states of Pennsylvania and New York to pay their share of the cleanup. He then accused Brown of raiding $460M out of the Open Space Fund along with $1.3B from a trust fund meant for the Bay cleanup. He promised not to raid these trust funds. He said that Marylanders hate the Rain Tax and are disgusted with them for passing it. BAM!
Brown said that Maryland has a tradition of a "balanced approach" to environmental issues. He said that Hogan shouldn't blame other states, and said that he would work with local governments on these issues and also on reducing new septic systems.
5. NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING: WHY HAS THIS RACE BEEN SO NEGATIVE?
Brown said that his ads are a conversation with the voters. Voters have a right to know where Hogan stands on important issues. He said it is fair to show the contrast in issues. He specifically named SB 281 and said that he opposed the bill in total and each piece of the bill including the banning of "assault weapons," limiting magazine size, background checks, and fingerprinting. He accused Hogan of secretly planning to overturn or not enforce SB 281 and called it dangerous.
Hogan said that he will not repeal SB 281. He actually felt that the bill didn't go far enough concerning mental illness and Federal background checks. It is set into law. He said that Brown has been running untrue ads trying to scare the public and as a distraction from his own record. "The ad shows an assault weapon on a playground! It is 100-percent false." He said that Brown keeps referring to Hogan's "long record" when he has no long record. He is not a politician. He also said that abortion is set into law and he does not intend to revisit that issue. He said that Brown ran more untrue ads about abortion meant to scare women into voting for Brown.
6. IMMIGRATION: DO YOU SUPPORT BRINGING CHILDREN FROM THE BORDER TO OUR STATE?
Hogan first went off topic to rebut the accusation in Brown's last rebuttal. "I don't have a record. You are using an article from decades ago that was actually about my dad. You should apologize to women for trying to scare them." BAM!
About immigration, my wife is a first generation immigrant from South Korean. I am obviously welcoming to immigrants, but we are a nation of laws. I actually blame the president and both the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress and the Senate for the situation at the border. BAM!
Brown said, "I am a first generation American, my parents came here from Jamaica. This is a land of immigrants." He blamed the Republicans in Congress for the situation at the border, but stated that we can't fix that in Maryland. He feels we are obligated to protect the children at the border. He feels that we should reunite them with their family here in the states and return them to their country of origin "eventually, if possible." He said that the Federal government should reimburse us for our foster care services.
7. SAFETY & CRIME: WHAT CAN YOU DO TO LOWER CRIME?
Brown said again that he lost a cousin to gun crime and that he supported SB 281. He said that crime is at an all time low, but there is more to do. He said we must not rollback or not enforce SB 281. We need to build on the success of our new gun safety laws.
Hogan said that we have some of the toughest gun laws in the country, but we are in the top ten in violent crime. He stated that our number one problem is heroin. It is an epidemic all over the state no matter how small the community. Yet, there has been no action. Hogan would call a state of emergency and address the heroin problem immediately.
8. GERRYMANDERING: WOULD YOU DO SOMETHING TO STOP THE EXCESSIVE GERRYMANDERING OF OUR STATE?
Hogan said that he is nonpartisan and offered proof by pointing to his organization, Change Maryland, which he claims is half Democrats and Independents. He said that we need to take the redistricting out of the hands of the monopoly Party in Annapolis and let it be handled by a nonpartisan independent commission.
Brown said that he agrees with Hogan, however, he blames the extreme Right in Congress for the problem. He thinks it ought to be handled at the Federal level with an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In summary, Hogan won the debate, my vote, and I think the vote of my 80-year-old mother who is Democrat. With the condition of this state, and with the complete dissatisfaction with the tax and spend O'Malley-Brown administration, voters are more open to listen to another perspective. Larry Hogan delivers a message that makes sense with an honesty that can't be denied.
I think he needs to iron out where he stands on SB 281 and courageously declare the truth of his intent...whatever that is. Making a firm statement and sticking to it will mean more than a wink and a nod to either side. Somebody is going to be mad or disappointed. I think he needs to realize that and accept it. This election is about the economy first. His strengths are in fiscal financial policies, so in my opinion, he should stick to those. I personally am disappointed that he isn't more forthright about gun rights, but I will take the 95 percent that we agree on instead of the maybe 9 percent I might agree on with Brown...just so I can stick it to Hogan for the gun issue. It doesn't make sense and I'm not going to do it.
I wonder if anyone noticed that there was no mention, from either side, of the failed ACA website and the huge loss of taxpayer money?