MD’s ‘Empty Lectern’ Debate

By Barry Rascovar

May 28, 2014 –THE MOST IMPORTANT person in the second Maryland governor’s debate didn’t bother to show up.

The empty lectern (center)

The empty lectern (center), WBFF governors debate

An empty lectern replaced Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown as the focal point of last evening’s dialogue between two other Democratic contenders, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur.

Brown was a no-show, as expected.

It robbed the event of its potential to highlight the differences among the three.

Brown’s Strategy

Brown, the frontrunner, played it safe. How many people will remember that he ducked this confrontation when they vote June 24?

Yet it was a huge disservice to Marylanders and an indication of the arrogance and hubris likely to accompany Brown if he makes it into the governor’s office.

Both Gansler and Mizeur profited from Brown’s absence. Anyone who tuned in will pick between the two and ignore the man who ran away from this debate.

Given that the debate was on WBFF-TV, which slants its news reporting to reflect the owner’s conservative views, the audience likely contained a lot of center-right Democrats who could play a key role on Election Day.

Plus for Gansler?

That should be good news for Gansler, who is clearly the centrist candidate in this primary contest.

While he didn’t wow anyone with his halting debating skills and less than scintillating campaign pitch, Gansler came across as experienced, thoughtful and a take-charge official.

Attorney General Doug Gansler

Attorney General Doug Gansler

He criticized the O’Malley-Brown administration’s 40 tax increases and Brown’s refusal to apologize for the state’s health exchange debacle that Gansler termed “a national embarrassment.”

Mizeur’s Winning Ways

Mizeur won the night’s politeness and demeanor award while sticking to her far-left positions on issues.

She came across as a classic tax-and-spend liberal with few realistic financing plans. She is the candidate least likely to succeed in wooing businesses (and jobs) to Maryland.

Mizeur is a different kind of gubernatorial candidate with lots of imaginative ideas. People like the thought of a different approach.

Del. Heather Mizeur

Del. Heather Mizeur

But is she ready to manage a $39 billion budget and a work force of 80,000? Her resume is sorely lacking in executive experience.

Lessons Learned

What did we learn from the ‘Empty Lectern’ Debate? Not much that wasn’t known before. Gansler says he’d be The Jobs Governor:

  • He’s courageously supporting a lower corporate tax to make Maryland competitive with Virginia in the hunt for new businesses.
  • He says he’s identified $1.5 billion he can cut from the state budget.
  • He favors merit pay for teachers.
  • He favors the Cove Point natural gas export terminal as a jobs generator.
  • He favors natural gas hydraulic fracturing as long as studies show it is safe.
  • He opposes legalizing marijuana.

WBFF governor debate Mizeur says she’s The Champion For The Middle Class.

  • She wants across-the-board pay hikes for teachers.
  • And a living wage for low-income workers.
  • And a fully funded pension program for state workers and teachers.
  • And universal pre-kindergarten programs.
  • And a business tax cut for small businesses.
  • And a tax cut for middle-class families.
  • And affordable child care, after-school programs and summer programs for kids.
  • She views natural gas hydraulic fracturing as a cardinal environmental sin.
  • She places the Cove Point export terminal in that same class.
  • She wants to legalize and tax marijuana.

There’s nothing surprising in any of that.

Upcoming Events

Now it’s on to the final TV debate on June 2 that Brown says he’ll attend, plus a morning radio debate the next day few will hear.

It’s been a disappointing campaign season, capped now by Brown’s in-your-face no-show.

This doesn’t help voters make up their minds.

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AS IF THE incomplete governor’s debate wasn’t enough, the day’s activities also included a three-way televised discussion by the lieutenant governor running mates.

It demonstrated the irrelevancy of that office.

Not only was the event aired Tuesday morning following the Memorial Day weekend — when nearly everyone was tending to other chores — it was broadcast on a Washington-area news cable station whose viewers live mainly in Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Going Out of State

To compound the insult, the Maryland candidates debated one another in NewsChannel 8’s Northern Virginia studio.

Thus a Maryland election debate took place at the out-of-state studio of an obscure cable station at a time when few were watching. Moreover, those who did tune in likely can’t vote in Maryland.

Isn’t time to recognize  Maryland made a mistake when it resurrected the office of lieutenant governor in 1970 after a 102-year hiatus?

The office has no constitutional powers.

It is a huge waste of tax dollars. (Brown earns $125,000 a year and has a staff of nine. Virginia’s lieutenant governor earns $36,321. Quite a contrast.)

Death Watch

Maryland lieutenant governors serve as surrogate campaigners and regurgitate the governor’s position on issues.

The occupant of this office is around simply in case the governor dies or becomes incapacitated.

Why not abolish the office, designate a line of succession and streamline state government?

It’s foolish to continue this charade in which we pretend that selecting a lieutenant governor really matters.

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