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Democrat Candidate for Maryland Governor Appears Set to Decline Debate Ahead of Election

The big debate in the Maryland governor’s race between Democrat Wesley Moore and Republican state Del. Dan Cox is whether the two will actually share a stage to debate.

Democrats have a 2 to 1 voter majority and Moore has a 10 to 1 fundraising advantage. He is heavily favored to defeat a controversial candidate whose primary campaign was bankrolled by Democrats eyeing an easy mark in November.

Cox, 47, a conservative attorney endorsed by former president Donald Trump in the race to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, has eagerly accepted invitations to debate his Democratic opponent, including on Sept. 27 at Morgan State University (MSU).

Moore, 43, a U.S. Army Airborne Ranger war veteran and investment banker with the vocal backing of TV maven Oprah Winfrey, has declined at least two debate requests, including from MSU, which is the largest of Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Epoch Times Photo
President Joe Biden spearheaded an Aug. 25 rally in Rockville, Md., on behalf of Democratic candidates including Wesley Moore (R) who is heavily expected to win his Nov. 8 Maryland gubernatorial race against Republican state Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick). (Courtesy of Wes Moore for Maryland)

From a tactical standpoint, debates rarely provide an advantage for clear frontrunners in political campaigns.

Not only do Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in Maryland, but first-time candidate Moore’s campaign has raised more than $10.5 million, ten times what the Cox campaign has garnered.

It’s a good bet in the general election that Cox’s campaign won’t receive the $1 million it got from the Democratic Governors Association during his GOP primary race against Hogan-endorsed former Maryland Labor and Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz.

The gambit in undermining the moderate Schulz in the July 19 primary was that Cox is too conservative, too linked to Trump (who lost by 33 percentage points to Biden in Maryland in 2020), and too supportive of the former president’s election fraud allegations to win a general election in Maryland.

Hogan, who clashed with Trump often while he was in the White House and remains popular in the state, has questioned Cox’s sanity and described him as a “QAnon whack job.”

‘Clear and Consistent’

During an Aug. 25 Democratic National Committee-sponsored rally spearheaded by President Joe Biden in Rockville, Maryland, Moore said many see his victory as guaranteed. He said he is often asked, “Isn’t it great that you have to go up against Dan Cox?”

“My answer is clear and consistent,” he told about 3,600 at the rally. “Do not underestimate what we’re up against. It is not ‘great’ that in November we are facing an election denier.”

Cox challenged the certification of Biden’s 2020 victory after observing mail-in ballot counts in Philadelphia. He chartered buses for the Jan. 6 rally and, during the Capitol protest, called Vice President Mike Pence “a traitor” in a Twitter post he later deleted. 

Moore has no tactical advantage in debating Cox, but his refusal to do so is also being couched as proper and ethical while also leaving the door open to sharing a stage with his challenger.

Moore campaign scheduling director Allisa Mason, in an email last week to The Spokesman, MSU’s campus newspaper and debate host, said Moore does not want to provide Cox a platform “that amplifies his dangerous and decisive (sic) rhetoric.” 

“We also have a responsibility not to promote or elevate the dangerous views of our opponent who would strip women of the rights to abortion care, who has denied the results of the 2020 election, and who sponsored buses of insurrectionists to the Capitol on Jan. 6,” Mason wrote.

Afghan War Veteran

She said Moore would debate Cox “at the appropriate time and forum,” a statement Moore reiterated on Aug. 26 when he told the Baltimore Banner that he’s “looking forward to the time when my opponent and I will be able to stand on stage together and be able to debate our vision and values.”

Raised by a widowed Jamaican-immigrant mother, Moore is first black Rhodes scholar from Johns Hopkins University who, as chief executive of the Robin Hood Foundation, raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fight poverty.

An Afghan War veteran, Moore was identified by Winfrey a decade ago as having the “it” factor after writing a best-selling book, ‘The Other Wes Moore.’ She narrates several of his political ads.

He defeated a crowded field of party rivals, including six who raised more than $1 million for their campaigns and had national name recognition—such as former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez—to win the Democratic primary.

Moore, in “work, wages, and wealth” campaign addresses, insists everyone deserves an equal opportunity to succeed, saying as a former Wall Street investment banker, he knows Maryland can become more competitive and more equitable so “no one is left behind.”

His platform includes a plan to combat climate change in his first 100 days in office.

He vows to protect abortion rights, close the racial wealth gap, and help older residents and retirees to stay in Maryland.

Easy Victory in Primary

Cox easily cruised past Schulz in a primary race that was projected to be much closer. He vows to file bills restricting abortions, banning mask and vaccine mandates, eliminating transgender rights, and authorizing a federal audit of 2020 elections if elected.

Since winning the primary, he has deleted portions of his campaign website about opposing the certification of the 2020 presidential election, downplayed Trump connections, and focused on crime, Democrats’ spending, and public schools where students are “brainwashed” about sexual and gender identity “behind parents’ backs.”

Cox in a statement said he’d appreciate the opportunity to speak with Moore about all this. He said he accepted MSU’s debate invite “immediately” and accused Moore of diminishing the HSBCU’s “leadership in political debates” on behalf of all voters.

“The students at Morgan State University deserve inclusive treatment for their historic debate,” he said in a statement.

“Moore should not discriminate against them, nor diminish the university’s leadership in political debates. Voters need to hear directly from their candidates, so they can make well-informed decisions on how to vote Nov. 8.” 

The Spokesman intends to hold its Sept. 27 forum, which will be moderated by NBC News correspondent Antonia Hylton, whether Moore appears or not.

Cox said he intends to win the election whether he debates Moore or not, because there’s no debate that voters are fed up with Democratic policies and done with Biden.

“I will win this November and vigorously serve the people of Maryland as governor because the failed policies of the Biden Administration which Wes Moore is praising, advancing and will implement are disastrous for Maryland,” he said in an Aug. 30 statement.

John Haughey


John Haughey has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government, state legislatures, and growth and development. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he is a Navy veteran who fought fires at sea during three deployments aboard USS Constellation. He’s been a reporter for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida; a staff writer for Manhattan-based business trade publications.

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