- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

The Democratic and Republican nominees for Maryland governor will meet for their first debate Thursday, after weeks of wrangling and indecision.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. are expected to discuss issues ranging from the estimated $1.6 billion budget deficit to health care, transportation and education.
The candidates will meet at 6 p.m. in the Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
The Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will host the debate. Baltimore NAACP President G.I. Johnson yesterday said branch Vice President Neil Duk will moderate.
Mr. Johnson said that while he hoped there will be some discussion of issues of concern to blacks, the debate will focus on matters concerning all Maryland voters.
"All of us are concerned about what either candidate is going to do on issues like health care, education and affirmative action," he said.
Townsend campaign spokesman Peter Hamm yesterday said the two sides had been talking on the phone this week to work out the details. But it is not yet clear what format the debate will use.
"We are continuing a very fruitful and positive discussion with the Ehrlich campaign, and we expect to come to a decision very soon," Mr. Hamm said.
Mrs. Townsend and Mr. Ehrlich have expressed differing views on issues ranging from gun laws to tobacco taxation to closing the state budget deficit.
Yesterday, Mr. Ehrlich expressed reservations about raising the cigarette tax, which is $1 per pack, while Mrs. Townsend has pledged support to a 36-cent increase in the cigarette tax to expand health care coverage.
Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver said the Republican candidate intends to discuss the budget deficit, transportation, education and health care, among other issues.
Mr. Hamm said Mrs. Townsend is prepared to talk on "a whole gamut of issues," from the budget to the environment to gun control.
The Ehrlich campaign yesterday blamed the Townsend campaign for delays and indecision over the debates.
"We had proposed this in July, but they have never responded to the letters we sent," Miss DeLeaver said, adding that Mr. Ehrlich is "very happy to engage in this debate."
Spokesmen for Mrs. Townsend's campaign said earlier this month they wanted to resolve the debate schedule through meetings "in an adult, rational manner."
They said they refused to respond to letters from the Ehrlich campaign because the letters were released simultaneously to the media.
Mrs. Townsend had suggested two televised debates earlier this month, but Mr. Ehrlich dismissed that as being too few. His campaign later released a list of more than 20 groups from whom they had accepted invitations for a debate.

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