Democrat Ben Jealous continued to criticize Gov. Larry Hogan by saying he lacks plans to improve education, health care and the state's economy, while Hogan cited improvements under his tenure and highlighted bipartisanship during a candidate forum held by the Maryland Municipal League on Friday.
Behind in polls and campaign funds, Jealous looked for a boost by arriving at the forum with supporters in a school bus. With the state's largest teachers union behind him, Jealous criticized the state of dilapidated schools, where a cold snap earlier this year exposed schools in Baltimore with failing heat.
The former NAACP president told the conference of local officials they would see him in their communities "getting together with local leaders, bringing in state officials and figuring out how to solve it together."
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"We will never be in a place where the kids were freezing in the winter and now they're boiling in the fall, and the governor was AWOL," Jealous said.
Hogan, who has had double-digit leads in recent polls, avoided mentioning his opponent when he spoke after Jealous. Instead, the candidate who hopes to become the first Republican governor to be re-elected in Maryland since 1954, focused on his goals of making Maryland a "more welcoming and more affordable place'' and working with local officials. He also emphasized record funding for education during his tenure.
While Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Maryland, Hogan noted the state's reputation for a "middle temperament" and his political course for middle ground.
"Everything that we have done, every decision that I have made as governor has been with a primary goal in mind: to make our state a more welcoming and more affordable place for all Marylanders to live, work, raise a family, start a business or to retire, and with your help that's exactly what we have done,'' Hogan said.
The governor received loud applause when he noted his work to restore millions of dollars for local roads that his predecessor tapped to help fill budget holes during the recession. Hogan also painted a different economic picture than his opponent. He cited his More Jobs For Marylanders initiative, which provides tax incentives for manufacturing job creation.
After the two candidates spoke, Hogan's campaign released a statement saying someone with the Jealous campaign tried to stop a videographer on the Hogan staff from filming as Jealous entered the hotel where the event took place.
"A security guard, a person associated with the Jealous campaign, physically slammed a staffer of ours up against a concrete column, more than once,'' said Doug Mayer, Hogan's deputy campaign manager.
Kevin Harris, a senior adviser to the Jealous campaign, said "the only person exhibiting aggressive behavior was the Hogan staffer, who had been asked to allow Ben to enter the building and greet officials who had come out to welcome him."
"This type of aggressiveness has become typical of the Hogan campaign and it needs to stop," Harris said.