Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Larry Hogan pressed their attacks on each other's competence and credibility Monday in the second televised debate of the governor's race in Maryland.
In a race characterized by negative campaigning, both candidates bombarded each other with criticism in the hour-long debate at News Channel 8, co-hosted by The Washington Post and WTOP Radio. Brown highlighted major errors in a government savings plan outlined by his opponent. Hogan pointed to the flawed rollout of the state's health care overhaul that Brown played a leading role in implementing.
Brown, a Democrat, said he shared responsibility for the problems for the health exchange website that crashed almost as soon as it opened last year. Still, he emphasized that many previously uninsured Maryland residents now have insurance. He also said other states and the federal government also had problems.
"The cost of inaction would have been greater," Brown said.
Hogan, however, pummeled the lieutenant governor for the overall mishandling of the website, saying it was one of the only major leadership roles he has taken on in eight years -- and he blew it.
"It's been a complete disaster," Hogan, a Republican, said, noting that tens of millions of dollars that will be spent to revamp Maryland's system.
Brown went after Hogan when moderators asked about a $1.75 billion savings plan he proposed. Brown's campaign has stressed the plan has gaping holes, including a $100 million error from a misplaced decimal point.
"Your first and only specific plan you laid out in the campaign, and the numbers just don't add up," Brown said, adding he believed his own proposal would save $1.5 billion.
Hogan questioned why Brown didn't find that savings in the past eight years, instead of supporting a wide variety of tax increases in recent years during Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration.
Hogan said: "If you knew that there was $1.5 billion in waste, which is what we've been saying, why didn't you do something about it for eight years?"
The two candidates also battled over how to protect the environment.
Hogan criticized Brown for supporting a stormwater management fee that critics have dubbed "the rain tax." The law directed 10 of the state's largest jurisdictions to create a fee to pay for Chesapeake Bay watershed cleanup.
"We're the only state in the nation that taxes the rain and we are forcing counties to charge taxes and fees on to people for the rainwater that falls on the roof of their house and their driveway, and it's ludicrous," Hogan said.
Brown, who cast himself as the candidate willing to make tough decisions to protect the environment, said the state isn't taxing the rain. Rather, Brown said, the state is simply funding a program mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce stormwater runoff that carries pollutants into the bay.
"It's good for safe drinking water and tens of thousands of jobs that count on a clean bay," Brown said.
The two also continued a long-running debate over other tax increases.
Brown repeated that he would not raise taxes, if he is elected governor.
"Marylanders have done their part," Brown said.
Brown also said he would push for tax credits aimed at the middle class, and he criticized a Hogan proposal to cut the corporate income tax from 8.25 percent to 6 percent.
Hogan said tax increases in recent years have hurt the middle class.
"They've never met a tax they didn't like or one they didn't hike," Hogan said.
Education funding is one of the most important issues for voters.
“You're calling for a $450 million cut in school construction,” Brown said. “That's like Tulip Grove Elementary School in Bowie. That's like Clarksburg Middle School in Montgomery County.”
“Everything he just said was not true,” Hogan said. “I am not planning to cut one penny in school construction costs, and multiple news reports just today and yesterday have criticized you for this ridiculous false charge.”
Brown accused Hogan of attempting to undermine Maryland's tough gun control law.
“Washington Post exposé showed that in a private discussion with gun rights activists you said to them that you're going to roll back the provisions of the Firearms Safety Act, which is just devastating, would be devastating for Maryland,” Brown said.
“My opponent's running television commercials acting as if I'm in favor of assault weapons in schoolyards and shopping carts, and I can assure you that's not the case,” Hogan said.
After the debate, Democratic state lawmakers who support Brown attacked Hogan’s statements on the gun law.
“He has said that he will roll it back and he basically was not truthful,” said Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s County. “He lied.”
Hogan then denied making a secret deal with conservative gun owners, News4’s Chris Gordon reported.
“It's complete nonsense,” he said. “There's no truth to that whatsoever."
A third debate is scheduled for Saturday on WBAL-TV.