BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The seven major Democratic candidates for Maryland governor weighed in on issues from crime in Baltimore to the state's economy in a debate on WJZ-TV Tuesday night – 10 days before early voting begins.
The candidates were questioned by three panelists: Vic Carter from WJZ-TV, Andrew Green from The Baltimore Sun and Ann Cotton from the University of Baltimore's Schaefer Center for Public Policy.
The 75-minute, taped event is the longest televised debate yet and the third of five scheduled televised debates in the race.
The debate featured the following candidates: Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III; former labor organizer Valerie Ervin; former NAACP CEO Ben Jealous; state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno; lawyer Jim Shea; author and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross; and Krish Vignarajah, former policy director for First Lady Michelle Obama.
Critics say that, so far, the candidates have spent most of their debate time attacking incumbent Republican Larry Hogan and not enough time distinguishing themselves from one another.
Lawyer Jim Shea opened the debate with a focus on Hogan.
"I'm running for governor because we have to beat Larry Hogan. Maryland's future depends on it," Shea said. "While Marylanders have focused on Donald Trump, Larry Hogan has led us in the wrong direction. Our schools are slipping, we sit in the worst commuter traffic in the nation and our economy lags behind our neighbors."
Candidates also discussed the rampant violent crime in Baltimore City.
"We have to have a real partner that understands – a governor that understands that what's going on in Baltimore City is not some foreign country. These are Marylanders that are dying in the streets, these are Marylanders who are afraid to walk to school or to their jobs," Baker said. "That is the governor's responsibility and as governor, I guarantee you that I will be working with the mayor to change these issues."
The latest Washington Post-University of Maryland Poll shows Jealous and Baker III in the lead, earning 21 percent and 16 percent, respectively. However, 39 percent of those surveyed had not yet decided who to vote for.
Several of the candidates said the juvenile crime justice system is broken and failed Dawnta Harris, the teen accused of killing Baltimore County Officer Amy Caprio.
"The system failed. It failed the officer, it failed all the young men – whose lives are also over as a result of this," Madaleno said. "The mother in this case begged juvenile services not to send him home, because he needed services – services we haven't been providing because we have a governor who hasn't made it a priority to put those services in."
The two other Democrats running are teacher Ralph Jaffe and Baltimore police chaplain James Jones. Neither has raised enough money or built a campaign infrastructure capable of a statewide campaign and will not be featured in Tuesday's debate.
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