ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP/WJZ) — Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democrat Ben Jealous have agreed on a televised debate.
The campaigns announced Thursday they have agreed to a single, hour-long debate on Sept. 24.
This comes after email exchanges between both campaign’s campaign managers, Travis Tazelaar and Jim Barnett of Jealous and Hogan’s campaigns respectively. Barnett said they released these emails due to their view that the Jealous campaign in their public statements had, “decided to mislead the media about what actually took place,”
“The governor very publicly accepted two debate invitations. If the Jealous campaign wanted more than one debate, they could have taken yes for an answer. But they self-evidently did not want more than one debate. Instead, they requested to meet and at the time of that meeting, to our amazement and disbelief, they offered up the idea of just one debate and there was never any request for more than one debate. We accepted their offer.”
Originally, Tazelaar emailed Barnett on August 16, asking if they could sit down and talk about setting up debates. Barnett originally said they had accepted all the invitations for debates, but said he would still be available for a sit-down.
Barnett sent WJZ these emails between the campaign managers to “clearly establish that the Jealous campaign came to us and requested to do only one debate,”
On August 21, Barnett rescheduled the meeting from a Tuesday night to the next Tuesday morning, August 28.
In an email sent later on Thursday, August 30, Barnett emailed Tazelaar saying they would be willing to do one debate, but had to stick with the dates they already had set.
“Good to hear from you. I’m happy to grab a coffee or beer as I’d enjoy getting the chance to meet you and commiserate, but as far as debates go, we’ve accepted all the invitations that we are prepared to accept.” Barnett emailed.
Barnett emailed again the next week.
“We talked it over. We’re willing to take you up on the one debate, whichever one of the two we have already agreed to,” Barnett wrote to Tazelaar on Aug. 30.
Tazelaar wrote back after: “When you say sticking to those dates, does that mean the 17th and the 24th are on the table regardless of which one gets chosen? I have MPT invite for the 17th and Channel 7 invite for the24th. So are you open to MPT on the 24th rather than the 17th?”
Barnett agreed that same day.
“Yes, we’d be willing to do MPT on the 24th rather than the 17th if you guys can work it out with them,” Barnett wrote. “Our view would be that the other set of sponsors should be invited to participate in it given that we already agreed to their event, and now would be backing out as part of this deal.”
Our media partner The Baltimore Sun reported that a Jealous campaign official said that exchange shows that the Hogan campaign was unwilling to even consider any October debates.
“As is clear from our prior statements we wanted more debates,” said Kevin Harris, a senior adviser to Jealous campaign. “However, it became clear after several weeks of no progress we ran a real risk of voters not having any opportunities to hear from the candidates. We don’t think that’s fair, so we worked to find agreement where we could and one debate was what Hogan was willing to agree to.” Harris said to the Baltimore Sun.
Hershkowitz said to the Baltimore Sun that Jealous could not attend the Sept. 17 date due to a conflict.
He added in an email that the emails show that the Hogan campaign was “unwilling to budge from those two days and refused to discuss any dates in October. We would have been happy to move the second debate, and add others, to October.”
But the emails and public statements show that Hogan’s campaign was willing to debate twice all along. The email exchange also shows no mention of October dates by either side.
Jealous’ campaign released a statement at around 8 p.m. Thursday night.
“The Larry Hogan campaign circulated misleading emails that leave out the important context that the Jealous campaign proposed five debates and wanted more than the two presented by the Hogan campaign. The emails only reflect the reality that only one debate could be agreed to by both campaigns because the Hogan campaign refused to budge from their original position regarding the number of debates and designated dates they were willing to participate.”
Kevin Harris, a senior advisor to the Jealous campaign, released the following statement:
“As is clear from our prior statements we wanted more debates. However, it became clear after several weeks of no progress being made with the Hogan campaign we ran a real risk of voters not having any opportunities to hear from the candidates.
We don’t think that’s fair, so we worked to find agreement where we could and one debate was what Hogan was willing to agree to. If Hogan disagrees, then he should take Ben up on his initial offer to have five debates, or at least agree to as many as he did in 2014.
We don’t expect that to happen given the Hogan campaign’s prior statements. Voters deserve better but unfortunately this is what could be agreed to given the Hogan campaign’s unwillingness to engage in good faith negotiations from the very start of this process.”
The debate will be hosted and broadcast statewide by Maryland Public Television.
The candidates will be questioned by media outlets from all parts of the state, including The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, WMDT and the Herald-Mail of Hagerstown.
The debate will be recorded live to tape and will air at 7 p.m. Sept. 24.
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