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Sparks flew between Moore and Cox over police, abortion and more in first television debate

Democratic nominee for governor Wes Moore and Republican nominee Dan Cox speak to reporters before the first televised debate.
Joel McCord
Democratic nominee for governor Wes Moore and Republican nominee Dan Cox speak to reporters before the first televised debate.

Gov. Larry Hogan was the unseen figure during the Wednesday debate between Maryland’s Republican and Democratic candidates to replace him. Democrat Wes Moore said several times that Hogan has said he can’t support Dan Cox, his party’s nominee. Meanwhile, Cox insisted that he stood with Hogan on every issue but one, pandemic measures.

In what likely will be the only televised debate between the two, broadcast on Maryland Public Television and WBAL-TV and radio, Moore praised Hogan for his criticism of former President Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans.

“And I'm thankful that the governor has come out and very early said that he will not support the Republican nominee despite being the nominee of his party,” Moore said, reminding viewers that Hogan has called Cox “a QAnon whack job.”

Cox said he has “stood with the governor to protect police” and on issues such as school choice and lowering taxes. He failed to mention that he sued Hogan over coronavirus restrictions and tried unsuccessfully to impeach the governor.

Asked to give Hogan a grade, Moore gave him “incomplete” because his term isn’t finished. Cox gave him an A, except for their differences on COVID.

Throughout the debate, Cox hammered at culture war issues while Democrat Wes Moore painted his opponent as an extremist.

Cox, a freshman delegate from Frederick County, insisted repeatedly that Moore wanted to “defund the police.”

He said Moore has worked with the Open Society Institute, which “came into my committee…and sought to defund the police.”

“I have a record of serving and protecting the blue,” he said.

Moore, who has not advocated defunding the police, shook his head and got in a shot of his own.

“My opponent likes to say that he backs the blue,” Moore said, turning to face Cox. “The irony is the blue doesn't back you. Because the police officers have endorsed our campaign.”

Democratic nominee Wes Moore and Republican nominee Dan Cox are both vying to become Maryland's next governor.
Screenshot from WBAL-TV
Democratic nominee Wes Moore and Republican nominee Dan Cox are both vying to become Maryland's next governor.

Asked about LGBTQ issues in schools, Cox said he supported parent involvement and complained of books like Gender Queer, a memoir that is available in some school libraries.

“What I will do also is ensure that the indoctrination stops,” he said. “We cannot have transgender indoctrination in kindergarten. I mean, that's preposterous. That's exactly what my opponent supports. It's on his website, I will stand against that and eradicate that from the curriculum and get back to world class learning.”

Moore, whose website says nothing about indoctrinating children, countered that as a father of two, he is deeply involved in and cares about their education.

“And you know who also cares deeply about their education,” he asked. “Their educators.”

He said he and his children’s teachers have the same goal; “to make sure that my children are prepared for the world that they are going to inherit. And we want the same thing for all of our children. Educator participation is not indoctrination. It is a partnership that we have between parents and educators.”

They also clashed on the abortion issue.

Cox claimed that Moore would “force into the (state) constitution” a provision that protects abortion rights “all the way into the third trimester.” Moore has said he supports a state constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights.

Cox supported legislation in the General Assembly that would ban abortion in Maryland, but he dodged a question about supporting a move by Republicans in Congress to set national abortion restrictions.

“One of the things that is near and dear to my heart is to ensure that everyone is safe, that women and children and the unborn all have equal protection and are supported by our laws,” he said.

Moore said abortion is health care and that he trusts women to make that decision with their doctors.

“The state of Maryland should never stand between the difficult decision that a woman has to make with her doctor about this issue,” he argued. “When we're talking about abortion, being healthcare, I trust women to make this decision with their doctors, not politicians and judges.”

Later, Cox deflected a question about the racial wealth gap in Maryland by instead focusing on those who suffered economically during the pandemic.

“The other thing we need to talk about with reparations is making sure that the people who were robbed of their business and their wealth over the last two years with an authority that my opponent supports, and that is a lock- down authority, we need to make sure that we're back in the position to prosper once again,” he said.

But that wealth gap isn’t something that just appeared in the last two years, Moore countered. He argued the state should focus on ways to address that by increasing the minimum wage and dealing with “unaffordable homes and unfair appraisals in historically redlined neighborhoods.”

“We've got to move into a direction where we're taking meaningful action and reparative action to be able to address the economic gaps that we continue to see in our society,” he said.

Early voting begins Oct. 27, the deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Nov. 1 and the election is Nov. 8.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.
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