The Republican and Democratic candidates looking to replace outgoing Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan sparred Wednesday evening in their only debate of the race with less than a month before Election Day and just two weeks before early voting begins.
Republican Dan Cox and Democrat Wes Moore touched on a host of policy issues from abortion and education to inflation and racial disparities, with two reoccurring themes that their respective parties have shown a spotlight on at the national level: crime and election integrity.
“He wants to defund the police, and not just that: he wants to indict the system,” Mr. Cox said. “Now that’s not talk or rhetoric that’s safe for anyone.”
“We’re watching a perfect indication as to why Gov. Hogan called you unfit to lead,” Mr. Moore said. “Frankly, I’m standing on stage right now with an extremist election-denier, whose rhetoric and whose policies are just dangerous and divisive.”
“I have always accepted election results that are fair and that are following the Constitution,” he said. “At this point, it would be similar to saying that before a surgery takes place to decide whether or not the surgery went well.”
Mr. Cox has promoted Mr. Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged and helped organize buses that took people to the U.S. Capitol on the day of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.
Despite the debate, the race appears to be all but sealed for Mr. Moore.
Mr. Cox is trailing the Democrat by double-digits in the polls. A Washington Post-University of Maryland survey published at the beginning of this month had Mr. Moore ahead by a more than 2-to-1 margin — 60% to 28%.
Mr. Hogan, a moderate himself and fierce critic of Mr. Trump, has labeled Mr. Cox a “QAnon whackjob” and said he’s not “mentally stable.” Mr. Cox pushed to impeach Mr. Hogan over the governor’s COVID-19 policies, though the candidate said he would give Mr. Hogan an “A” letter grade on all other matters.
Mr. Hogan served back-to-back terms, becoming a nationally recognized Republican figure leading an otherwise overwhelmingly blue state.
Both candidates have spent unusually low amounts of ad money for a statewide race amid small fundraising hauls by both men. Mr. Moore had $1.3 million cash on hand as of late August compared to the more cash-strapped campaign of Mr. Cox, which reported only about $130,000 in the bank around the same time.