ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — After a long standoff, Maryland’s incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and his Democratic challenger, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, agreed Thursday to a single, hour-long debate on Sept. 24.
In a joint statement released Thursday, the campaigns announced the debate will be taped earlier in the day and broadcast at 7 p.m. that same day on Maryland Public Television, WBAL in Baltimore and WJLA in Washington. Panelists will be drawn from local media organizations across the state including The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, the Hagerstown Herald-Mail and television station WMDT, the release said. There was no mention of the debate being broadcast on the radio.
Jealous had previously called for five debates to be held in October, while Hogan’s campaign had agreed to two debates in September. Neither campaign could come to an agreement, according to reports.
“This is a tremendous missed opportunity for the Jealous campaign,” said Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “I’m left unable to comprehend why you would end up with one when you at least wanted two.”
This breaks tradition of having multiple debates during the general election dating back several cycles. In 2014, Hogan faced then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in three debates over a three-week period in October. Former governors Martin O’Malley and Bob Ehrlich participated in three in 2010.
“The Jealous campaign refused to do any debates for two months,” Hogan said in an interview on “The C4 Show” on WBAL radio Friday. “They basically just ignored it and … we’ve been pushing for this.”
“They finally contacted us a week or so ago and said they only wanted to do one debate and they wanted to switch the times around,” the governor said on the show. “We agreed to it because people deserve to hear the two candidates and we’re frustrated it took so long, but we’re happy we finally got a debate on the schedule.”
Hogan also said there was not enough time for more debates, and schedules were full.
There are 60 days until election day Nov. 6. Early voting begins Oct. 25.
Each campaign is pointing to the other as the reason for the single faceoff.
The Jealous campaign clarified the announcement in a separate release Thursday, accusing the Hogan administration of ignoring Jealous’ initial call for five debates.
“…We wanted more debates. However, it became clear after several weeks of no progress being made with the Hogan campaign we ran a real risk of voters not having any opportunities to hear from the candidates,” Kevin Harris, senior adviser to the Ben Jealous campaign, said in the release. “We don’t think that’s fair, so we worked to find agreement where we could and one debate was what Hogan was willing to agree to.”
Though the two men will likely only face off publicly one time, it’s still a major opportunity for Jealous to present his case for becoming Maryland’s next governor, Eberly said.
“There is no better free media for a challenger to an incumbent than a debate, where they stand together on stage,” Eberly said. “They are instantly equalized.”