Democratic and Republican candidates for governor in Maryland on Tuesday highlighted some of their accomplishments and goals for a cleaner environment in a state that is home to the Chesapeake Bay, the nation's largest estuary.
Six candidates spoke under an eight-minute time constraint at a forum co-sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and 1,000 Friends of Maryland.
Doug Gansler, a Democrat, said protecting the environment has been a top priority during his nearly seven years as attorney general. Gansler said the state needs to embrace smart growth, protect open space and increase the size of the state's Department of the Environment, which is about half the size it was 20 years ago.
"They have very, very few enforcement agents to go out and inspect the environmental problems that we have here in Maryland,'' Gansler said. "We have to make that a priority as it once was.''
Republican David Craig said since he has been the Harford County executive, the county has put 8,500 acres in agriculture preservation. That, he said, has eliminated the potential for 800 future septic systems, which can pollute the environment. The county has spent $68 million under his tenure to get that done. Craig also said Harford is one of the leading counties for recycling efforts in the state, with 168 tons of trash steered to recycling in recent years. He also pledged to listen to concerns of environmental advocates.
"It is about sitting and listening to your side of the issues and making sure that we are going to keep this environment clean for those grandchildren -- that we work together on it,'' Craig said.
Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Democrat, underscored the importance of renewing a partnership with farmers to work on the common good of sound policies. She also said the state should work harder with local governments on planning efforts by providing more transparency in the process.
"We can't pit environmentalists against farmers," Mizeur, of Montgomery County, said. "We have to bring out the environmentalist that naturally exists inside of every farmer, and to do that we have to be ready to assist the agricultural community on fostering its success. Our goals aren't mutually exclusive."
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, had running mate Ken Ulman appear on his behalf because Brown was out of town to visit his father in the hospital.
Ulman called attention to initiatives under the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley and Brown, such as encouraging smart development by working to develop greater mass transit through the Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs of Washington and the Red Line in Baltimore. He also said a Brown-Ulman administration would strengthen enforcement of environmental laws and continue developing stormwater regulations.
"Preserving the Chesapeake Bay is critical to Maryland's future," Ulman said. "It's a natural treasure, an essential part of our history, our economy and our shared future."
Delegate Ron George, a Republican, said he would seek to have a plan for the Conowingo Reservoir Dam by 2016. The dam affects water quality in the Susquehanna River and in the Chesapeake Bay. George also said he was a strong supporter of oyster restoration, and he said he plans to be active in seeking solutions to environmental problems.
"I often fault members of my own party for not having answers. It's not enough to just be against something," George said, referring to his colleagues in the GOP in a heavily Democratic state. "I'm a very solution-oriented person. If one has a sound political philosophy it must be one that can offer answers."
Charles Lollar, who also is seeking the GOP nomination, said he supports maintaining a $50 million annual commitment to the Chesapeake Bay Fund.
"They must not be diverted and used outside for other general purposes," Lollar said.
Maryland's primary is scheduled for June 24.