Democrat Ben Jealous used every chance he could get to challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan as a politician with no plans for the future on Monday in the only debate of Maryland's governor's race, while Hogan said the state is better off after his first term.
Jealous and Hogan battled the whole hour over the economy, education, guns, health care, transportation and drug addiction during the debate at Maryland Public Television. The two often talked over each other as one attacked the other.
Jealous criticized the governor for shortchanging school funding, failing the state's largest city of Baltimore on transportation needs and neglecting to outline plans about what he would do to address important concerns. He took issue with Hogan's contention that the state's economy has fared much better during his tenure.
"You taking credit for an economy that's slightly better years after the end of the recession in some places, not all, is like taking credit for the sun rising, sir," Jealous said. "Let's run on your record, not on mythology."
Hogan characterized his opponent's proposals, such as a Medicare-for-all health care system, as unaffordable. Throughout the debate, Hogan said his opponent's attacks were based on fantasy.
"It's just like you're living in a dream world," Hogan said at one point.
Jealous has been behind in recent polls, and he is far behind Hogan in fundraising. A Goucher College poll released last week showed Hogan leading by 22 percentage points, 54 percent to 32 percent. The poll of 831 Maryland adults had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.
Both candidates were asked by a panelist what they will do to try to stem gun violence. Fatal shootings have made national headlines in the state this year, including a rampage at the Capital-Gazette newspaper that left five dead and a shooting at a drugstore warehouse that left four dead last week.
Jealous, who noted his "F" rating from the National Rifle Association, said Maryland must stop the flow of illegal guns into the state and treat gun violence as a public health crisis.
"There's a public mental health crisis, and we have to make sure that people get the mental health care that they need," Jealous said.
Hogan noted his signing of the state's red flag law, which takes effect next week. It enables families and law enforcement to ask courts for an order to temporarily restrict access to people found to be a risk to themselves or others.
"This is a tragedy that we're going to have to keep focused on," Hogan said.
The candidates also were asked about efforts to fill staffing shortages at state prisons.
Hogan said the state has had to take stronger precautions to avoid hiring correctional officers who could be susceptible to the kinds of prison scandals the plagued the previous administration. And he criticized Jealous for wanting to make deeper cuts in prisons, which he described as "dangerous."
Jealous countered by saying it's not the only place he wants to cut, and he highlighted a reduction in the state's sales tax from 6 percent to 5.75 percent. Jealous said he wants to shrink the prison population to make prisons safer and free up money for education.
Jealous tried several times to link the governor with President Donald Trump, who is unpopular in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.
"From Willie Horton to Donald Trump, your party plays by the same playbook. You lie and you scare people," Jealous said, referring to Hogan's criticism of his plan to reduce the prison population.
Horton, a convicted killer in a 1988 political ad, raped a woman while out of prison on a weekend furlough. The spot was designed to play on fears that Democrats were supposedly soft on crime, but the ad featuring the black felon was widely condemned as racist.
Hogan, who has distanced himself from the president, said the state already has made major progress reducing the prison population after a sweeping package of prison reform legislation during his term that he supported.
"It doesn't matter how many times you say it, it's not going to be true, and Willie Horton and Donald Trump don't have much to do with this," Hogan said.