By William J. Ford
ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic challenger Ben Jealous took part Friday in Maryland Municipal League’s annual fall conference at the Westin Hotel, sharing a room for the first time since their lone debate nearly three weeks ago.
And though the scene outside the hotel was boisterous as demonstrators and protesters lined the entrance, it was a relatively tame affair inside, aside from the Republican governor receiving a standing ovation from some attendees.
Scott A. Hancock, executive director of the municipal league, said the cheers were partly due to the respect for the office itself.
“The partisan part of the politics we are so used to seeing on the county level, you don’t see that here,” he said. “I’m very proud of that. We just want our members to be educated enough to make the right decision on who’s going to be the best partner for municipalities.”
Jealous, the former president of the NAACP, spoke first and talked about some of his civil rights achievements, his 101-year-old grandmother and endorsements.
He also criticized how job growth has slowed in the state since Hogan took office in 2015.
“Our job growth under Larry Hogan is so low that if we had the job growth in Virginia, we’d have 40,000 more jobs,” Jealous said. “[Virginia’s] job growth is below the national average. We’re well below the national average.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the state added 4,600 jobs in August and led the Mid-Atlantic region among four other states and the District of Columbia during that month. However, the state ranks fourth overall in the region.
Jealous’ economic proposal includes increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, boosting co-op businesses and creating a new Office of Tech Transfer that would coordinate the state’s higher education, venture capital and banking communities to research future investments such as cybersecurity.
Hogan spoke for about eight minutes, outlining the accomplishments of his administration made while working with the state’s 150-plus municipalities. He also praised state and local officials to put aside partisan politicians.
According to a recent poll released Wednesday by Gonzales Research and Media Service, about 67 percent of Democrats believe Hogan “is doing a good job” as governor.
“Time and time again, we have chosen to engage in thoughtful and civil debate,” he said. “We’re setting an example for the rest of the nation about how government is supposed to work.”
After the forum, a few municipal officials either declined to say which gubernatorial candidate they support.
“I need to take time to review Hogan’s last four years … and assess Mr. Jealous’s platform,” said David Lingua, a councilman in Riverdale Park who’s a registered independent and supported Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III in the June primary. “It’s about … who has the best policies going forward [and] who’s going to be able to draw the consensus in the Maryland Legislature in Annapolis. That’s what it’s all about.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer.