Seven of the eight Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidates participate in a Young Voter's Forum at Goucher College in Towson. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Seven of the eight Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidates participate in a Young Voter's Forum at Goucher College in Towson. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

TOWSON, Md. — Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidates pitched their proposals on higher education, minimum wage increase and protecting the environment during a Young Voters Forum at Goucher College.

Seven of the eight Democratic challengers spoke Friday, Feb. 2 to students from Goucher and other Maryland campuses in their bid to defeat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who remains popular even in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of 2-to-1.

The Democratic challengers have a tough challenge to unseat the incumbent, who has a war chest of slightly more than $9 million and no challengers for the GOP nomination.

“It’s great there are many Democrats running,” said Jessica Solomon, 23, a senior at Goucher who originally is from Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania, but moved to Maryland four years ago. “To be able to have many choices and just not to be locked in to one candidate with one view … to see what they all stand for.”

The lone Democratic candidate not to participate in the forum was Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who was busy working on the county budget, said campaign manager Andrew Mallinoff.

Goucher, a liberal arts schools in the suburbs north of Baltimore, conducted a poll in September which showed Baker in second place behind Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who has since withdrawn from the race.

Goucher plans to release a new poll on the gubernatorial race next month, but the candidates present Friday focused on the dozens of young adults.

Baltimore attorney Jim Shea offered a little humor and said, “I’ll remind you I’m Jim Shea, in case you forgot. There are a lot of us.”

Students asked seven questions written on cards, but Shea and the other candidates couldn’t respond to all of them.

Shea said education remains the most important concern, especially since Maryland ranks in the middle of the pack among other states.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamanetz talked about how his jurisdiction has 40 percent non-white males on the police force and all 1,400 officers must wear body cameras, two things he said has improved relations between police and the community.

Kamenetz, who has raised the most money among his Democratic opponents with more than $2 million with cash on hand, said he would implement a similar plan for state law enforcement agencies if elected.

Krishanti Vignarajah, former policy director for first lady Michelle Obama, suggested secondary schools implement educational programs about the harmful effects of sexual assault.

On how Maryland can protect the environment, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross said the state’s Office of Attorney General should resist and contest any “piece of crack-smoking, crazy anti-environmental policy that comes out of the Trump administration.”

State Sen. Richard Madaleno of Montgomery County, who said “I’m an insider” because of his experience on state matters, criticized Hogan’s investment of $500 million to combat opioids but not enough on more beds and treatment.

Ralph Jaffe of Baltimore County constantly told the students that career politicians ruin the political process. In addition, he refuses to accept campaign contributions because he equates them to a legal form of bribery.

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous stressed his plan to provide health care and free college for every Marylander and eliminate mass incarceration.

Jealous’s stance made a mark on Sam Kebede, 21, a senior at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.

“So many people are from the outside [political establishment], but Ben came off very knowledgeable,” Kebede said. “People think of all these issues as separate. He brings them [together] that is understandable.”

Fellow Hood senior Brice McAndrew, 21, still remains undecided on his choice for governor.

“I think Gov. Hogan is doing a good job,” he said. “The candidates did well in speaking their cases. I would be interested to see how Hogan matches up with the chosen candidate [in the Nov. 6 general election].”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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