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Opinion

Baltimore County: Maryland's 'Swing District'

Tom Chalkley
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Baltimore County may once again be Maryland’s swing district: Republican in one cycle, Democratic in the next.

Right now, in the race for governor, Republican Larry Hogan leads Democrat Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown by a slim margin in the county. That’s according to a Washington Post poll published Monday. Democratic leaders and campaign door-knockers find considerable antipathy to Governor Martin O’Malley in the county. And Lt. Gov. Brown is being effectively portrayed as O’Malley 2.0.

In parts of the county’s east side, voters say the state is heading in the wrong direction by a wide margin. Hogan has made what he calls the O’Malley-Brown tax burden a key theme of his campaign. Marylanders, he said, have been “crushed” by the O’Malley team’s tax policies.

The two men appeared in a debate on WJZ and Maryland Public Television Tuesday evening.

Until recently, Brown has urged voters to see the difference between him and Hogan on social issues. He has called for support for universal pre-kindergarten and warned against Hogan cuts to public education.

On Tuesday evening, though, TV viewers saw him declare that his administration would not raise taxes. Hogan scoffed, suggesting that this promise had been made and broken by Democrats in the past. Hogan’s assertion that his opponent is not up to being governor seemed to be refuted by Brown’s calm and confident handling of a range of issues.

In the same vein, Hogan’s style seemed likely to connect with voters who scarcely know him.  He repeatedly characterized himself as a small businessman who was fed up. And he said Brown mis-characterized his position on abortion, suggesting that Hogan opposed it even in cases of rape and incest. Absolutely not true, Hogan  said.

This increasingly contentious race has less than a month go with two more debates scheduled. Look for Hogan’s lead in the county to expand as county voters see more of him.

Your comments are welcome at fsmith@wypr.org.