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Gubernatorial Candidates Talk ‘Status Quo’ In North Bethesda Forum

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 12/16/2013, 12:25pm  ET

Six Maryland gubernatorial candidates spoke at Monday's Committee for Montgomery candidate forumSix 2014 gubernatorial candidates sat on the same stage on Monday morning in North Bethesda, all touting their understanding of the increased needs of the state’s most populous and second wealthiest county.

The three Democratic candidates, in a series of prepared questions they got in advance and with closing remarks, used the stage to further their individual narratives.

Attorney General Doug Gansler said he’s a candidate against the status quo, a not so indirect shot at candidate and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

Brown cited accomplishments of the Gov. Martin O’Malley administration and talked about the large role Montgomery County played in passing a series of landmark laws including marriage equality and the Dream Act.

“If you like the status quo, if you think the status quo is what we need to have in the future, then you shouldn’t vote for me,” Gansler said. “I’m not a status quo person.”

Del. Heather Mizeur laid claim to being the real change candidate, explaining her proposal to legalize and tax marijuana in order to pay for pre-K education programs for 3-year-olds.

“Our marijuana prohibition has not worked. We have been enforcing our laws with racial bias. We have been distracting our law enforcement from focusing on serious and more minor crimes and when we tax, regulate and legalize marijuana, we’ll have enough revenue to help fund a pre-K program,” Mizeur said. “I hear the gasps in the room, ‘Oh god, she’s talking about legalizing marijuana.’ We need candidates to run for governor who are really going to have bold conversations with people again.”

Mizeur then took an apparent jab at the mudslinging between Brown and Gansler, the better financed, more visible candidates widely seen as competing against each other for the nomination.

Mizeur said she was the, “candidate that’s going to be an adult in this race, that’s having a real conversation about the real things we need to do to meet all those goals that we want to achieve together.”

The event was organized by the Committee for Montgomery, a group of companies, lobbyists, civic associations, nonprofits and municipalities and towns. In attendance were most Montgomery County elected officials. The top sponsors of the event, held at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, were Adventist HealthCare, Chesapeake Public Strategies, Clarksburg Premium Outlets, the Lerch, Early & Brewer law firm and Pepco.

County Executive Isiah Leggett led with his top priority.

“I want to make it very clear. We want more school construction money,” Leggett said.

County leaders want $20 million from the state to go with $40 million from the county to support $750 million in construction bonds to fund needed school construction over the next five years.

Brown, who recently unveiled a number of Montgomery County endorsers, again pledged to support that effort during the 2014 General Assembly. County leaders say the state has for too long relied on Montgomery’s relative wealth to fund programs across the state.

“Our ‘me too moment’ is now and we need that help,” Leggett said.

Republican candidates David Craig, the Harford County Executive, Charles Lollar and Del. Ron George also answered the questions about healtchare, the county’s growing economic disparity and the county’s status as the “economic engine of Maryland.”