O'Malley-Ehrlich radio debate appears to firm up
Could it be that O'Malley and Ehrlich have agreed to a debate? The two major candidates for governor appear to have committed to an Oct. 29 appearance on Washington-based WTOP radio.
Last week, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican candidate for governor, released a five-point debate proposal that included two television appearances and three radio gigs. Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's aides say they have been working behind the scenes to set up debates with Ehrlich. They had contacted some of the same outlets on Ehrlich's wish list.
The candidates have a history of squabbling about debate specifics, though both say they are eager to argue their views before the voters.
One of the radio debates Ehrlich proposed was a one-hour appearance at 10 a.m. Oct. 29 -- just a few days before the general election -- on WTOP. O'Malley has already agreed to that appearance, his aides say.
Of course, there's a complication.
Curiously, Ehrlich's debate proposal said "host to be determined." However, WTOP's Mark Plotkin has a politics program in that exact time slot. He said Friday that he had been working for weeks to arrange the Oct. 29 debate between O'Malley and Ehrlich. He was puzzled by Ehrlich's "host to be determined" note on the five-point proposal.
Plotkin said O'Malley's aides had agreed to the debate and Ehrlich's spokesman Andy Barth "gave every indication" that Ehrlich would be there, too.
"I took (Ehrlich's) debate proposal to be further confirmation," Plotkin said.
Contacted Monday, O'Malley's spokesman Rick Abbruzzese reiterated that the governor will be there. But Barth deflected. Asked why Ehrlich didn't recognize Plotkin as the host of the Oct. 29 event, Barth wrote in an e-mail:
"(W)e haven’t heard from the O’Malley people, and there remain several aspects of any debate to be discussed. We have the highest regard for everyone at WTOP, and look forward to a debate occurring there ... "
Plotkin said Friday that the format hasn't been nailed down, but he said it would be basic: brief opening and closing remarks, and no timed responses (which Ehrlich prefers).
Four years ago, during the first O'Malley-Ehrlich match-up, O'Malley accepted a similar offer from Plotkin, but Ehrlich didn't. Plotkin notes that Ehrlich was a guest on his show in April, the Friday after he announced his gubernatorial bid. Oct. 29 would be the first time O'Malley and Ehrlich appear on the Plotkin show together.
Meanwhile, other debate proposals are percolating. Baltimore's WBAL-TV and Maryland Public television have offered to host a debate, as they did four years ago. Stay tuned.