It’s been a predictably heated race between incumbent GOP Gov. Larry Hogan and his Democratic challenger Ben Jealous this summer, as chronicled in the press. But even as their campaigns have thrown barbs at one another over one-off statements and disagreements on ideology, the men have not appeared side-by-side to lob their criticisms and judgments for our viewing pleasure.
But now we have an event to look forward to for that unspoken purpose. Jealous’ and Hogan’s campaigns released what will likely be their only joint statement Thursday, announcing they’ve set up a debate for Sept. 24. Maryland Public Television will be hosting the hour-long affair at its studio in Owings Mills, and will also be moderating and broadcasting. WBAL-TV and WJLA-TV (in Arlington, Virginia) will also be carrying the debate.
In one corner will be the current governor, presiding over a blue state with impressively strong polling numbers, the ire of Baltimore City voters, a fiscally conservative agenda and a well-stocked campaign war chest. In the other will be the former NAACP president and venture capitalist championed by labor unions and nationally known progressives, and banking on high minority and young voter turnout, even with low marks in the polls.
As for the people asking the tough questions, the campaigns said the panel “will include media outlets representing all regions of the state: The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, WMDT, and the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.”
There’s been some confusion about how many debates both sides really wanted, but it appears both initially desired more than one. In a statement, Hogan campaign manager Jim Barnett said, “The governor very publicly accepted two debate invitations. If the Jealous campaign wanted more than one debate, they could have taken yes for an answer. But they self-evidently did not want more than one debate.”
In emails–shared by Hogan’s campaign–between Barnett and Jealous’ campaign manager, Travis Tazelaar, Barnett wrote on Aug. 30, “We’re willing to take you up on the one debate, whichever one of the two we have already agreed to.”
They had been discussing debates on either Sept. 17 and 24, though The Sun reports A Jealous campaign spokesman said Jealous could not make the Sept. 17 date because of a scheduling conflict.
Jealous’ campaign said in a release Thursday night that it had asked for “five debates and wanted more than the two presented by the Hogan campaign.”
“We worked to find agreement where we could and one debate was what Hogan was willing to agree to,” Kevin Harris, senior advisor for Jealous’ campaign, said in a statement.
Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, a progressive who’s publicly supported Jealous, on Friday offered his own home as the place for a follow-up debate in October.
If @GovLarryHogan will offer two or more dates after the first week in October, I will host a debate in my living room for him, @BenJealous and any press that want to attend. I will even cook dinner. It will be vegetarian.
— Ryan Dorsey (@ElectRyanDorsey) September 7, 2018
The scheduled televised showdown for this month comes almost exactly six weeks before Election Day.
This story has been updated.