Maryland Democrats prepare to take on Hogan

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidates attending a forum include, from left, Alec Ross, Krishanti Vignarajah, Rich Madaleno, Rushern Baker and Jim Shea. Photo by Dan Schere

If a Democrat unseats incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan in the November 2018 election, odds are that he or she will promise a $15 an hour minimum wage across Maryland.

That was one point of agreement among five Democrats seeking their party’s nomination during a forum Monday night at the Silver Spring Civic Center. They also discussed the importance of creating jobs, improving education and promoting a clean environment.

The forum, hosted by the liberal activist group Progressive Neighbors, included candidates Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker; state Sen. Rich Madaleno (District 18); lawyer Jim Shea; and former State Department officials Alec Ross and
Krishanti Vignarajah.

Absent were former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

Here is some of what each candidate had to say:

Rushern Baker

• Baker spoke about policies and programs he had championed as county executive, such as a dual-enrollment program for high school students, allowing them to earn an associate’s degree for under $10,000 while still in high school. Baker also said he viewed a higher minimum wage as a continuation of the $11.50 minimum wage he signed into law in Prince George’s County four years ago.

• Asked by an audience member if he would protect sanctuary communities that are home to immigrants who had benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, he replied that he would do so, despite the large numbers of arrests of undocumented immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. He said, “It should be a statewide policy that we issue out [to protect sanctuary communities], and that’s not what we’re seeing from this governor.”

Rich Madaleno

• A cancer patient asked Madaleno whether he would support end-of-life medication. He replied that he had already sponsored a bill in the General Assembly, which was withdrawn this year. He assured the patient that he would continue to support an end-of-life policy, saying, “I think it’s very important for people to have that autonomy to make those
decisions.”

• He said Democrats have a good chance of defeating Hogan in 2018, but they must campaign in “all 24 jurisdictions.” He called former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown, now a member of Congress, “an extraordinarily good person who ran an extraordinarily bad campaign.”

Alec Ross

• Ross said his priorities would include universal health care. He thinks Democrats have “lost the script” when it comes to affordable housing, and he hopes his minimum wage proposal will protect low-income tenants. “We have a lot of knowledge workers doing well, but then we have a lot of people working at or below the minimum wage, and we have a thin middle.”

• Asked by Vignarajah if it was time for a female governor, there was a brief pause before he replied, “I’m deeply feminist. I’m proud of my feminism. I’m proud of my four years working for [former Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton. We absolutely need to get women into 13 of 14 positions [in state government, except governor].”

Jim Shea

• Shea said his priorities include improving education, increasing jobs and improving transportation. He supports in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and said that “as you keep the tuition down, you have to keep the quality up.”

• He said he used to handle redistricting cases as an attorney, and said that congressional districts must be contiguous, compact and conform to natural boundaries. “We’ve done too much monkeying around,” he said of
gerrymandering.

Krishanti Vignarajah

• Vignarajah called herself “Donald Trump’s worst nightmare” and said the Democratic Party needs to keep its focus on issues such as the environment and the economy. “In order to beat Larry Hogan we can’t just be anti-Trump. The electorate wants and deserves more,” she said.

• Asked by an audience member what she would do about pollution from coal-fired power plants, she replied that some pollution comes from neighboring states, and that it was not practical to shut down coal-fired plants in Maryland immediately.

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

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