WOLB gubernatorial debate wrap-up
Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley kept to his campaign talking points while his challenger, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., went on the attack in a wide-ranging debate this morning on WOLB radio.
The exchange was the third -- and possibly last -- between the two main gubernatorial candidates and comes one day before early voting starts.
Both talked about issues dear to Baltimore's African-American community, including mass arrests, minority contractors and funding for historically black colleges and universities. Ehrlich said he appointed the first black judge to an Eastern Shore jurisdiction. O’Malley said he doubled the number of African-Americans on the bench.
O’Malley repeatedly brought up the NAACP, saying the group rated Ehrlich an "F" as a congressman and said the Republican had asked President George W. Bush to investigate the civil rights organization. Ehrlich, at one point, counted out loud the “gratuitous” Bush references.
The two had several testy exchanges. O’Malley made a reference to Ehrlich’s private sector job as a partner with the Baltimore law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. Ehrlich shot back: “It is OK to get a job in the private sector. You are going to be looking for one in a few months.”
Early on, radio host Larry Young, a Democratic former state senator, queried O’Malley on his zero tolerance policing policy that have been since abandoned. O’Malley responded that the city was in dire straits with “open-air drug markets” but has improved in part because his policies. Ehrlich disagreed, saying that O’Malley “created criminal records for people who did nothing more than walking around.”
On minority contracting, O’Malley said his administration has given a record amount to black- and women-owned companies and accused Ehrlich of wanting to end the program. Ehrlich flat-out denied the charge.
The two also clashed over President Barack Obama’s health care plan with O’Malley calling it “courageous” and Ehrlich saying it was “counter-cultural” and would result in providing less care to older people who become sick.
As the debate wound down, the two touched on veterans affairs. O'Malley noted a "moment of agreement" with Ehrlich about providing a tax exemption for military veterans. O'Malley says he chose to spend tight dollars on mental health services for veterans but is open to the tax idea in the future.
The first few callers to the station after the debate said O'Malley won, though both campaigns quickly issued the required statements declaring victory.