Maryland gubernatorial candidates Dan Cox and Wes Moore squared off Wednesday in their only debate ahead of November’s general election, trading fiery answers on election integrity, abortion and more.
Questions of election integrity took center stage at the debate, which was moderated by WBAL-TV News’ Jason Newton.
Baltimore Banner journalist Pamela Wood asked Cox whether he would accept the results of next month’s election, citing his refusal to accept the 2020 presidential election’s outcome. Cox hosted buses from the Frederick County Conservative Club to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Wood said and expressed distrust last month in Maryland’s mail-in ballot system.
Cox, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, skirted around the question.
“I have always accepted election results that are fair and that are following the Constitution. I intend to look to the Constitution and uphold the law and the Constitution,” Cox said. “The statute of Maryland actually protects Democrats, Republicans alike to say there’s a process that has to be followed, and every single candidate on the ballot has a right to that process.”
Moore said it was “irresponsible and frankly dangerous” to cast doubt on the state’s election system.
The candidates also went head-to-head on abortion, debating state laws in the shadow of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to an abortion this summer.
Cox, who has represented the state’s fourth district in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2019, has supported a multitude of bills that would restrict abortion access during his time in the House of Delegates, said panelist Tracee Wilkins, the Prince George’s County bureau chief for NBC Washington.
“One of the things that is near and dear to my heart is to ensure that everyone is safe, that women and children and the unborn all have equal protection and are supported by our laws,” said Cox, who deems himself pro-life.
Cox also called Moore’s support for third-trimester abortions “absolutely disgusting.”
“When we’re talking about late term abortions, 99 percent of abortions are not late term abortions,” Moore responded. “I trust women to be in partnership and relationship with their doctors. And I do not believe that lawyers and politicians and judges should be getting in the way of that relationship between a woman and her doctor.”
Wilkins questioned Cox’s contradictory beliefs about health care freedom regarding abortion versus COVID-19 vaccines.
“The government’s not forcing anybody about abortion. The government is forcing individuals to take a vaccine or lose their jobs. This isn’t right,” said Cox, who has vocally opposed vaccine mandates and COVID-19 lockdowns for his entire candidacy.
The candidates also discussed legal marijuana. Questions about decriminalization came as Marylanders are slated to vote on a referendum in November’s election that would legalize cannabis for residents ages 21 or older.
Cox said if marijuana is legalized through November’s referendum, he would support policies ensuring those who have been previously convicted of marijuana possession would no longer be at risk of losing their job. He said he supports a more regulatory approach to marijuana legalization, which would involve testing marijuana and working with law enforcement to ensure safety.
Moore focused on justice for Black and brown communities impacted by previous marijuana possession.
“We have to focus on things like being able to deal with the pardoning of people who have criminal records for something that is now a burgeoning industry in the state of Maryland,” Moore said.
When asked about transportation and climate change, Cox said he supports the expansion of the Capital Beltway and I-270 — a proposal the Maryland Sierra Club and other groups filed a lawsuit against yesterday because of its climate impacts.
Moore, on the other hand, said Maryland needs to address highway congestion in an “environmentally sound way,” not by expanding roads. He advocated for constructing the Baltimore Red Line, an east-west light rail project proposed across Baltimore, and for policies supporting electric vehicles.
Throughout the debate, Cox emphasized his support for parental choice.
He spoke against books in schools covering topics such as gender expression, claiming they represented “transgender indoctrination in kindergarten.”
“I will stand against that and eradicate that from the curriculum and get back to world class learning — making sure it’s all about STEM technology, making sure we have reading, writing and arithmetic so that our kids can learn like God’s intended them to learn,” Cox said.
Moore said schools should support LGBTQ+ students, citing higher-than-average rates of suicide and homelessness among transgender youth and calling for the state to work with local school districts on student resources and support.
“Educator participation is not indoctrination,” Moore said. “All I ever want for my children is for them to be seen and for them to feel like they’re being heard. And I want the same thing for every child.”
Moore is expected to win next month’s election in blue stronghold Maryland. Election day in Maryland is on Nov. 8, and Marylanders can vote early between Oct. 27 and Nov. 3.