Reviewing Hogan-Brown Debate 2: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down from 7 Commentators - Southern Maryland Headline News

Reviewing Hogan-Brown Debate 2: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down from 7 Commentators


In the NewsChannel 8 studio, from left, Larry Hogan, Anthony Brown, Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post, Shawn Anderson of WTOP radio, and Bruce DePuyt of NewsChannel 8.
In the NewsChannel 8 studio, from left, Larry Hogan, Anthony Brown, Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post, Shawn Anderson of WTOP radio, and Bruce DePuyt of NewsChannel 8.

It was a more intimate setting Monday for the second TV debate between Republican Larry Hogan Jr. and Anthony Brown in their race for governor. Sitting side by side at a table in the studios of WJLA-News Channel 8 in Arlington the candidates went at it, questioned for an hour by three reporters.

The full debate is now available online. There are links to three video segments below.

Here are the reviews and observations from seven commentators: Melissa Deckman, Blair Lee, Barry Rascovar, Brian Griffiths, Rick Vatz, Blaine Taylor and Len Lazarick. Professor Todd Eberly’s commentary on the race and the debate ran so long that we made it a separate story.

Animated and defensive, they connected with their constituencies

By Melissa Deckman

In this second debate, both Larry Hogan and Anthony Brown were more animated and defensive, which may reflect that the race is tightening. Neither candidate won any major political points but may have further cemented their connection with different constituencies in the state.

Brown appeared stronger on issues of education, calling into question whether Hogan would properly fund public schools, and also raised the issue of pre-kindergarten again — although he dodged the question about what happens if gambling funds aren’t enough to extend Pre-K universally as he would like. Brown was also adept at reminding voters about his administration’s commitment to keeping college affordable.

Another strength of the debate for Brown came toward the end when he reminded voters that he supported the raise in minimum wage, which also tapped a bit into the gender gap given that women are more likely to be earning the minimum wage more than men. Frankly, I’m surprised that Brown doesn’t do more to appeal to women voters more directly when it comes to economic issues.

At the same time, Hogan was very clear about his priorities concerning taxing and spending, and his “laser beam focus” on the issues, to use his description, has really set the tone and substance of the campaign thus far. His criticisms about Brown’s role in managing botched health care roll-out were effective.

He also planted the seed in voters’ minds that his work under Gov. Bob Ehrlich, as his appointments secretary, was bipartisan in nature, deflecting criticism by Brown that he was perhaps a “bipartisan boss” as opposed to a party boss!

Hogan’s responses were not so great, however, to the claim that his audit numbers are off, the numbers on which he is basing much of his campaign as he pledges to reduce government fraud and waste. Unless he can be clearer about his math errors, which have not only been raised by Brown but by independent observers, he could potentially undercut his major plan for governance.

However, so far, given Hogan’s newness as a political candidate, his debate performances have been solid.

Melissa Deckman is chair and professor of Political Science as well as Louis L. Goldstein Professor of Public Affairs at Washington College in Chestertown.

Hogan communicates despite biased questioning

By Blair Lee

Hogan, on camera, is a better communicator. He was relaxed, confident, conversational and, most important, on message. He’s also good at one-liners (“Our economy is a mess, everybody in Maryland seems to know it but you”). Brown comes across stiff and scripted. When he can’t answer he reverts to Maryland’s AAA bond rating and his military service.

The panel was more biased than Debate #1 last Tuesday. “Moderator” Bruce DePuyt led by asking Hogan this loaded question, “Are you asking Marylanders to elect someone who opposes their social values?” And have you stopped beating your wife? Three times the panel asked about Hogan’s flawed $1.7 billion savings audit list, especially his alleged $450 school construction cuts. Likewise, the panel made gun control a big deal. In the real world of one-party Annapolis, none of these scare scenarios can happen, even if governor Hogan wanted to.

But at least the panel brought up Brown’s Obamacare website fiasco. Brown accepted some blame but claimed eventual success, “We rolled up our sleeves and got it done”).

Substance. Much like Debate # 1, the chief dynamic was Hogan hanging the status quo around Brown’s neck. Brown wants to “make this election about the future, not the past” but on every issue — taxes, environment, jobs, economy, etc. — Hogan asks: Why didn’t you accomplish it during the eight years you and O’Malley were in charge?

Hogan (and the polls) say Md. is headed in the wrong direction, the economy stinks and taxes are too high. Brown is forced to either disagree or change the subject.

Brown’s offensive. Unlike Debate # 1, Brown came out swinging. He challenged Hogan on minimum wage, cleaning up the Bay, corporate taxes, education spending, gun control, etc. Some of his punches were comically wild; Hogan caused higher ed tuition hikes because he worked in the Ehrlich administration, Hogan is “a partisan boss,” Hogan’s running mate (Boyd Rutherford) was involved in a scandal.

Hogan’s one-liner response, “It wasn’t the Ehrlich-Hogan administration, but you are the O’Malley-Brown administration.” Even if the media helpfully echoes Brown’s charges they are only distractions from what appears to concern voters this election.

Bottom line. These debates help the underfunded Hogan communicate with voters while Brown is left defending an unpopular governor and a flawed record.

Blair Lee is a columnist at the Gazette newspapers, chairman of the board of Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His email address is blairleeiv@gmail.com.

Hogan got more aggressive

By Brian Griffiths

Monday’s debate was a lot chipper than the one that we saw last Tuesday.

The biggest theme I noticed was how much more aggressive Larry Hogan was in challenging the assertions made, especially those which were made by Anthony Brown. Especially impactful was Hogan’s point that “Boyd Rutherford is the most qualified man ever to run for Lt. Governor” was not just accurate, but also a direct shot at Anthony Brown’s qualifications to serve as governor, something that many people on both sides of the aisle have openly questioned.

This is exactly the kind of aggressive campaign that we were looking forward to when we at Red Maryland enthusiastically endorsed Larry Hogan for Governor last fall.

Anthony Brown’s clung to his already discredited talking points on women’s health and guns, though he did try to turn a little more focus onto jobs, education spending, and taxes. The problem for Brown though is the fact that by doing so he exposed his weakness in these areas.

Taking credit for Under Armor’s success was amusing. More amusing was Brown’s assertion about how he was going to balance the budget, during a time in which the O’Malley-Brown administration oversaw a $10 billion increase in state spending, structural deficits waiting for the next administration, and property tax increases baked into future budgets due to the spending hikes championed by O’Malley and Brown.

Brown’s continued attempts to tie Hogan to Bob Ehrlich’s record fall flat on a number of levels. One, Larry Hogan was a cabinet secretary and not the lieutenant governor as Brown is. Secondly, Anthony Brown is in the room now whereas the Ehrlich administration ended eight years ago. The “backroom deals” comment was amusing given the cronyism we have seen during the O’Malley-Brown years and the Land Deals that the O’Malley-Brown team were working out with their political allies at the beginning of their administration.

It’s enlightening that Brown wants to blame the Ehrlich administration for the last eight years of the O’Malley-Brown administration’s shortcomings, and merely continues to feed the perception that Anthony Brown is an empty suit.

More structured and focused

On the media end of it, this debate was much more focused and structured than the WJZ/Baltimore Sun debate. Unlike the first debate, where Vic Carter and Andy Green decided to not ask a question about such an important issue, the moderators did ask about Anthony Brown’s role in the failed health care exchange roll out. Two of the three moderators, Bruce DePuyt of NewsChannel8 and Shawn Anderson of WTOP radio were both on point and asked relevant questions.

Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post on the other hand should never be allowed to moderate a debate ever again. She seemed to be aloof and more interested in carrying Anthony Brown’s water than in being a relevant contributor to the debate process. While that shouldn’t be a surprise by a Post reporter who has written pointless articles like this one about the Governor’s race, she brought absolutely nothing to the debate.

Her question about school construction spending, well after both candidates had already addressed the issue, showed she was interested more in either talking about what she wanted to talk about or getting herself over as a journalist than she did in contributing to the public discourse. I hope future debates have serious journalists involved, and not Jenna Johnson.

The least surprising thing about the debate? Larry Hogan took questions from reporters afterward again, while Anthony Brown ran away.

Hogan’s aggressive nature and Brown’s defensive responses tell us a lot about the state of play in this race and how the last three weeks are going to play out.

Brian Griffiths is an editor and commentator at the partisan Red Maryland blog.

Chalk up a big one for Anthony Brown

By Barry Rascovar, Political Maryland.com

Chalk one up – a big one – for Anthony Brown.

In a campaign marked by wild accusations and harsh, over-the-top negativity, the Democratic candidate for Maryland governor finally started talking policy in the second televised debate.

Not all the time, mind you, but at least one of the contenders gave voters a clearer idea of how he’d govern Maryland over the next four years.

Republican Larry Hogan Jr. missed a prime opportunity to gain ground. Time after time he failed to offer specifics on how he’d clean up the Chesapeake Bay, how he’d deal with gun laws, how he’d jump-start the state’s economy and how he’d improve education.

Hogan totally dodged pointed questions about whether he’d name a new State Police superintendent with the goal of liberalizing the issuance of concealed weapons permits.

He refused to acknowledge or refute a Washington Post story that he had made promises to gun advocates at a private meeting.

Hogan avoided giving details throughout the debate. He offered little beyond his distaste for past tax increases, his pessimistic view of Maryland’s economy and his wish to create more jobs.

He gave no concrete examples of how he’d lower state spending or pump up Maryland’s economy.

Where’s the beef? There was none.

Brown got specific, Hogan wasn’t

Brown, at least, stopped finger-pointing long enough to give a hint of how he’d run the state. He provided an understandable explanation of the botched health exchange rollout and a defense of Obamacare, i.e., giving 410,000 more Marylanders health insurance.

He far outdistanced Hogan in his response to protecting Maryland waterways against stormwater pollution. He repeated his pledge to use tax credits and tax cuts to spur small business development.

He defended his call for universal pre-kindergarten through a phased-in program. He committed to rapid-rail expansions that Hogan wants stopped.

He placed deserved emphasis on career and technical education (the old vocational-tech courses) to make high school students job-ready if they’re not college-bound.

Hogan harped on familiar themes he’s used throughout this campaign with no detail about how he’d turn ideas into reality.

In contrast, Brown finally started giving voters hints of a governance plan. He came across as competent, knowledgeable and substantive.

For Brown, it was Mission Accomplished.

Barry Rascovar has been reporting on Maryland politics for over 40 years and writes a weekly column for MarylandReporter.com and his own blog, politicalMaryland.com.

The dandy versus rough around the edges: Nod goes to Hogan

By Richard E. Vatz

I suppose this will be what passes for a fair debate on NewsChannel 8, with no obvious prejudice but with The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson asking repeatedly one-sided questions in favor of Anthony Brown and with his (Brown’s) getting three shots at the devastating legacy and cost ($288 million, said Larry Hogan) of the healthcare run-up, while Hogan got one.

Much of the debate otherwise was a replay of the campaign this far: Brown was more rhetorically dexterous and Hogan was incredulous at what he claimed were false imputations of policy arguments and positions.

The format allowed some ad hoc participation, and I think if you add up the minutes, Brown was advantaged by this. It was not outrageous, and the debate as a whole was generally informative, even if it was not quite up to the fairness and equity in the WJZ-Baltimore Sun debate.

Bruce DePuyt was a fair enough moderator, and he and questioner WTOP’s Shawn Anderson were just fine in their roles, but Ms. Johnson, as noted, appeared to be consistently quasi-hostile to Hogan. Writing several days ago on Brown’s accusation that Hogan’s “privately telling ‘extreme’ gun-rights activists that he would use executive orders to roll back some gun-control measures — something that Hogan has publicly said he would not do,” she became what we call in persuasion theory a “special pleader,” pressing and pressing this issue after it had been discussed earlier in the debate.

Again, Hogan denied he would do any such thing, as Johnson had written in the Post a week ago, and that he could not respond to unnamed sources. Perhaps he can be asked about this four or five more times.

Standard issues and responses

There were the standard issues and responses, and, again, Hogan’s general attack was that Brown had solutions to problems that he was part and parcel of creating as lieutenant governor and that Brown had never publicly spoken up about such matters. Hogan asked if Brown ever voiced his objection to Gov. Martin O’Malley concerning his misgivings, but Brown never addressed that.

The weakest Brownian answers concerned the question by DePuyt, “Are Marylanders overtaxed?” and Brown said yet again that he didn’t see the need for raising taxes, but never addressed the question or why he should be believed that he would not raise taxes when he had made the same promise four years ago. There were also no answers to the $10 billion spending rise, the loss of jobs, the rise in unemployment (despite the infusion of federal jobs, unmentioned by Hogan) or who was responsible for Maryland fiscal policy if not the governor and lieutenant governor.

I am going to jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge if Hogan again pursues his “pursuing mental illness history will cut down on gun violence” argument without ever giving any evidence that such pursuit has had any effect whatsoever. Why don’t reporters question him on this? Because they believe that “mental illness” is the cause of gun violence, without any evidence as well.

Finally, as a pox on both their houses, is no one going to talk about the elephant in American society, single parent households which contribute outrageously disproportionately to crime and other social pathologies, or is the answer just to buy government overseeing of our children at earlier and earlier ages, say pre-K and pre-pre-K education?

I must say that as disappointed as I was substantively in Anthony Brown’s evasions and sophistry, his elocution is near-perfect. I hope my students someday present as well as he. Hogan’s is not bad as a rough style, often associated with ingenuous honesty, but most audiences prefer style such as Brown’s.

Edge to Hogan.

Professor Vatz teaches Persuasion at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model (Kendall Hunt: 2013)

Many more issues were covered

By Blaine Taylor

A far better debate than the first, in which many more issues were covered, and more hardball questions were asked—and sometimes answered—on both sides.

The lieutenant governor’s answer on the Health Care rollout debacle was a non-answer, and that is simply because he is defending an indefensible blunder on his part. Nothing was said, either, about the hands-on director of that boondoggle, and should be, hopefully in the next debate.

We learned a lot about Mr. Hogan’s running mate, but still know zero of the lieutenant governor’s, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. Hopefully we’ll hear about him as well in the next debate.

Another person we didn’t hear about—and should—is why the lieutenant governor still hasn’t repudiated the conduct of his former mentor, State Sen. Ulysses Currie. That, too, is indefensible.

I close with an opinion about the always much-ballyhooed Maryland Triple A bond rating. Rather than something that politicians can and always do embrace, to me—as both a voter and a citizen—it represents what is wrong about both state and federal government. It allows them all to borrow more money that we simply shouldn’t spend. We need to get our governments and ourselves back on cash and carry operational conduct. We stepped on the slippery slope of debt in government via the Triple A Bond Rating, and in our personal lives, via out of control credit card misuse.

Both as voters and as spenders, we have met the enemy, and it is us. We need to save ourselves from ourselves, and I hope that the next debate will focus on this and the other items mentioned above.

Blaine Taylor is an author who has run for U.S. Senate and House as a Democrat.

Not much new but a good summary of the campaign

By Len Lazarick, Len@MarylandReporter.com

What did anyone who’s been paying attention to this 2014 campaign learn from the second debate?

Not much at all. But someone who hadn’t been paying very much attention would have gotten a good taste of the men’s personalities and positions, along with their usual misrepresentations, half-truths, inaccuracies and accomplishments. Some of the inaccuracies have been pointed out before.

Hogan is more comfortable in a less formal setting, needs a haircut in the back, and shows a good sense of humor. Brown is reliably disciplined to stay on message, but as countless people have probably told him most of his life, he needs to loosen up a bit.

I have no way to come at these men with a fresh eye. Over four years and more, I’ve seen them both in public and in private, and interviewed them both briefly and at length before they were in the heat of the campaign. To their credit, they have both chosen men as their lieutenant governor running mates who are at least as bright as they are and certainly more experienced in actually running large government operations.

If you managed to get to the end of the debate and hear their closing remarks, both candidates strongly articulated why they are running. Brown’s recounting of his military service is in such compelling contrast to what you might expect from someone with his Harvard education.

“Today, I’m on a different mission,” he said.

“I happen to believe that our state is way off track,” said Hogan. He hopes Marylanders will vote “to go in a different direction,” while his opponent represents “another four years, another O’Malley term.”

They both agree, as Hogan puts it, “this is a fight for Maryland’s future,” or as Brown puts it “This election is not about the past, it’s about the future.”

The debate really did dwell on the past. While they’ve given us some inkling of what aspects of that future might be, what that future might look like with either man as governor is still fairly vague.

Len Lazarick is the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com.

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