O’Malley, Ehrlich square off in first debate

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former governor Bob Ehrlich squared off for the first time this election season in a Monday morning wrestling match over facts and figures — taken from each of their four-year terms — concerning job creation, public education funding, immigration and furloughs for state workers.
The hour-long debate, which was peppered with eye-rolls and personal jabs, was recorded in Baltimore’s WJZ-TV television studio at 10 a.m. for airing at 7 p.m.
Ehrlich kicked off the forum characterizing O’Malley’s administration as “hostile” to the private sector.
“What this election is really about is how we view small businesses,” Ehrlich said. “We need a healthy private sector.”
O’Malley touted the 33,000 new jobs created in the state since January, and attributed the struggles of Maryland’s small businesses to the national recession. He praised his commitment to fostering an economy friendly to innovation and venture capital projects.
Ehrlich has pledged not to raise taxes in Maryland — and says he plans to reduce the sales tax if he is elected.
When asked whether he would commit to the same pledge, O’Malley said, “I’ll tell you what I will not do. I will not make that irresponsible blanket pledge.”
The Democrat incumbent criticized Ehrlich for saying he wouldn’t fund the Geographic Cost of Education Index, which gives more state money to jurisdictions where education is more expensive.
Ehrlich shot back that the index is not a state mandate.
“We will always have pretty good schools,” Ehrlich said. “We are a pretty wealthy state.”
Ehrlich called O’Malley “Guv” roughly six times during the debate and repeatedly said, “It’s my time… it’s my time” when O’Malley tried to interrupt him a half dozen times.
O’Malley uttered, “come on, man” a couple times, when Ehrlich spouted off criticisms of his administration.
The heated tone of the debate reflects the negative ads that have been circulating in the Baltimore and Washington areas for the past several months.
When asked about the negative campaigning, Ehrlich said, “In some media markets negative works. It’s all silly and juvenile, and unfortunately part of what happens when people are fighting for power.”
He claimed O’Malley had been using “attack ads” more often and for a longer period than his campaign.
O’Malley said he uses such ads to fulfill an obligation to correct what he called inaccuracies in Ehrlich’s ads.
On other topics, Ehrlich pushed fore more lax gun control laws and bashed Casa of Maryland — a Hispanic advocacy group — as a safe harbor for illegal aliens.
“Why should we pretend laws don’t count?” he asked.
O’Malley admitted he partially agreed with Ehrlich — that federal immigration laws are in dire need of reform. But states should leave reform to the federal government, he said.
He fingered Ehrlich for taking shots at illegals.
“We should not blame new Americans for problems our country is going through right now,” he said.

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