Josh Kurtz – The Debate: Missions Accomplished

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By: Josh Kurtz 

We interrupt this analysis of Wednesday night’s Democratic gubernatorial debate to express sympathy for the fans of “Access Hollywood,” whose favorite show was pre-empted, at least in the Washington, D.C., market, so WRC-TV could do its civic duty and bring us a somewhat befuddled David Gregory, well out of his element, presiding over the encounter.

As a public service, here are some of the topics the “Access Hollywood” Twitter account addressed while the debate was taking place:

*Jessica Alba’s chic new look.

*Jason Priestly discusses a possible “90210” reunion.

*Is Candy Spelling dating again?

*Kim Kardashian denies wedding rumors.

*Monica Lewinsky takes issue with Beyonce.

How could Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur compare? Is it any wonder voter turnout is going to be so low?

Actually, all three candidates acquitted themselves pretty well. Each accomplished, more or less, what he or she set out to do, and there were no major gaffes or wince-inducing moments.

At the same time, there was no knock-out blow or memorable zinger or game-changing flashpoint, either. And for the all-important “who’d you most want to have a beer with?” test, None of the Above came out on top. Did any of these candidates even crack a smile?

It wasn’t exactly a desultory affair, but the format didn’t lend itself to much expounding or illumination. The candidates answered 10 questions in all, and one of them dealt with…The Washington Redskins. Nothing on the environment, or how to deal with the state’s structural budget deficit, or transportation and infrastructure projects. Voters just beginning to pay attention to this election, hoping to be educated on the candidates and their positions, would be forgiven for walking away as befuddled as they were when they tuned in.

The three candidates, who debated last night at the University of Maryland and on statewide TV, can probably agree on this: It’s a good thing Channel 4’s Chris Gordon was on the panel of questioners, because he came off way more arrogant and self-important than any of them did – an unexpected humanizer for a stage full of stiff politicians.

If you’re Gansler, you’re cheering the fact that you didn’t insert your foot in your mouth. You got off the requisite attack lines on Brown’s (mis)management of the state health care exchange, and you laid out your own priorities and accomplishments pretty well.

If you’re Brown, you could tick off everything good that’s happened in the state in the last eight years and how you’re going to build on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s successes. You could show how fluent you are on the matters of state governance, and you could express moral indignation over Gansler’s behavior at that beach party last summer – and his support for “corporate giveaways.”

And if you’re Mizeur, you proved you could run with the big dogs, that you’re every bit as serious and that your plans are just as well thought-out, if not more so, than the frontrunners’. You could switch topic when the conversation turned to the Redskins to instead talk about the income and opportunity disparities in the state, and you could remind everyone that you were remaining above the fray when the fellas started throwing elbows.

For the insiders, who know the candidates and their schticks so well, it’s hard to know what the real voters are actually hearing. Mizeur and Brown went with their humble roots – Mizeur, the welder’s daughter, forced to subsist on strike pay; Brown, son of a man who grew up in a house with a dirt floor. Gansler mentioned that he grew up in Chevy Chase, that he was an economics major at Yale, that his son goes to the University of Pennsylvania.

Lines of the night:

Gansler, speaking about the time, while serving as Montgomery County state’s attorney, he was censured by the state Court of Appeals for, in his word, publicly criticizing a judge who made controversial remarks about a young rape victim: “I wear it as a badge of honor.” (The Brown campaign, in one of the many real-time emails it sent out during the debate, took issue with Gansler’s explanation.)

Brown, referring to Gansler’s appearance at the beach house last summer: “I would have stopped the party and made sure that every child got home safely.”

Mizeur: “I’m the governor the state is waiting for.”

More likely, though, the state is waiting for more news about Jessica Alba.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.


But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.


The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.


In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.


Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.