The Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, which can be found on their Facebook Page. The event starts at the 47:47 mark.
The comptroller section of the debate went quickly. Tim Adams was the only one who showed. Brooke Lierman was supposed to be there, but had to be on the floor of the General Assembly for a vote. Mr Adams often touted his experience as the mayor of Bowie. He promised to bring equity and inclusion to the contracting process. When asked about lowering taxes, he pointed out that the Comptroller actually has no control over the taxes, other than collecting. If he won, he promised to “meet with a coalition like this to listen and understand,” as well as leveling the playing field.
The governors section took quite a bit a longer, it starts at the 2 hour mark. The candidates that were there were: John King Jr., Ashwani Jain, Doug Gansler, Wes Moore, Robin Ficker, Peter Franchot, Rushern Baker, Jon Baron, and Tom Perez.
The candidates were asked three questions:
- Maryland is consistently short on the MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) goal. How would you fix that?
- How would you get more black entrepreneurs access to captial?
- Why should black business owners vote for you?
Honestly, most of the answers to all three questions were the same. All of the candidates said they had to fix the procurement process. Some offered ideas for how to do it, some just spouted off word salad. Some performances were more notable than others.
Robin Ficker, the only GOP candidate to appear, tried to lead the crowd in a Bowie cheer, dodged every question, called fellow candidate Rushern “Raw-Shawn,” dropped names like MLK and Rosa Parks, and constantly had to check his phone or papers to remember what it was he wanted to say, but it was his answer to the last question that stood out. When asked “Why should black business owners vote for you?” Mr. Ficker responded, “Because I’m one of you.” He then declared that BFF really stands for Bezos’ Friendship with Ficker, and that he would convince Bezos to start a new NBA team in Baltimore, so that people wouldn’t worry about guns and fentanyl any more, and focus on being productive and “moving on up.” Yes, folks. This man quoted The Jeffersons to the Maryland Black Chamber of Congress, before doubling down and repeating, “I’m one of you.” In his closing, Ficker declared that if he was in Seattle, the Seahawks wouldn’t have traded Russell Wilson, that back in the day he saw ladies with rouge on their faces in the MoCo attorney’s office. Then checked his napkin and went on a rant about wanting to bring semi-conductor factories back to Maryland. The man was entertaining, but should not be anywhere near the governor’s office.
Franchot was the first to offer an actual explanation for why the MBE goal isn’t met and a potential solution. He pointed out that a big problem is that the individual agencies tend to write their contracts in such a way that the ONLY company that can fulfil the contract is the one they were already working with, excluding everyone else from being able to win the contract. He proposed making changes to how contracts were written and processed to remove that favoritism. Since he had to follow Ficker in the order, he took little subtly sarcastic shots at Robin’s over-the-top-antics each time. Other than that, he tended to lean heavily into his existing record as Comptroller for the last 16 years. He even said, “You’ve trusted me with your money as comptroller for 16 years, now, please trust me with your money as governor for the next four.”
Baker leaned heavily on his experience as the County Executive of Prince George’s County. He also bragged about the MGM contracts. Residents of PG will remember that Baker ran for CE on a promise that he would NEVER allow gambling in the county, only to immediately cut a deal with MGM to bring in a massive casino. He also wanted people to go check out his Inclusion plan, which is being spear-headed by Mel “dui-and-flee-the-scene” Franklin. The only time Baker really shined, he also sounded pretty sketchy. To answer question 2, about getting more access to capital, he touted his Bench program which allowed minority businesses to pre-qualify for the bidding process. Sounds like a good idea, until he bragged about telling his son where to buy a home, because he knew that a Whole Foods would be built in the neighborhood before the process had been completed. He then kept harping on the idea that if we know something is coming ahead of time, we should use that knowledge to get ahead of the process. I don’t know about you, but that kind of thinking reminds of insider trading.
Jain started the event by announcing his pronouns and declaring that black/brown people do not have a voice in politics, and then continued to declare that he wanted to make politics accessible and transparent, but did not give us a clue as to what that means. He was very proud of the fact that there are no paid consultants on his campaign. He seems like a well-meaning, passionate man. He strikes me as a young ideologue with big dreams.
Jon Baron declared that everyone else was using the old playbook of one unproven plan after the other, but he would rewrite that playbook. This after telling us that his grand idea for doing things differently was to start a bunch of programs, see what worked, and run with them. My impression, he’s a nice guy who’s in way over his head.
As for the other candidates, John King Jr is very focused on racial equality, but didn’t offer alot of ideas for how he would accomplish what he said. Wes Moore talked in cute sound bites that sounded great, but didn’t seem to offer a lot of substance. Gansler really doesn’t care who wins as long as a Democrat wins, because Party über alles or something like that. Oh, and Tom Perez was too busy at a Zoom Meeting fundraiser to make it to the event on time, but don’t you worry, cuz he’s got your back, unless he’s got somewhere else to be. But once he did make it to the event, he seemed to get lost in his own word salad, and sometimes seemed angry for no real reason, so maybe don’t put him in office unless you want Joe Biden 2.0 to be running Maryland.
So that’s my take on the “debate” which was really more of a forum. Either way, Franchot is my pick as the winner of the night. He explained the root cause of some problems, and offered realistic solutions. Baker would be the number two, but as a PGC resident, I still remember his litany of broken campaign promises and that graduation scandal that happened on his watch. He was even touting those falsified, high graduation rates the last time he ran for governor. So I can not in good conscience vote for him for anything. Wes Moore then pulls up in third, but the fact that he has Alsobrooks’ support is enough to concern me, but that’s a whole other topic. The others just seem either completely out of their depth, or just to bonkers to trust with the state government.