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October 17, 2006

Lets' Play Two!

George Wenschhof

Ernie Banks, the popular shortstop with the Chicago Cubs who loved to play baseball, was credited with creating the saying "Let's play two!" referring, of course, to a baseball double header.

That is exactly what happened Saturday when Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., participated in two televised debates. After months of negotiations the two sides quickly agreed on the two debates.

The first debate was taped early Saturday afternoon and was aired last night. The second debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Maryland was live and aired on Maryland Public TV and WBAL-TV between 7 and 8 P.M.

Saturday night the competition for viewers was tough as the Detroit Tigers were playing the Oakland Athletics for the American League championship with the Tigers up 3-0 in a best of seven series. Yes, this is the same Tiger club that lost about 120 games just a few years ago. It was also breast cancer awareness day and locally many downtown merchants were wearing pink ribbons and contributing to the cause.

Although Detroit right-fielder Magglio Ordonez had just hit what turned out to be the first of two home runs to tie the game at 3 in the sixth, I switched channels to watch the debate. I decided I would attend the wine-tasting at my friend's Joe's British store after the debate where a percentage of the proceeds were being contributed toward breast cancer research.

With the last minute agreement by the candidates to do this debate, it is unlikely many Maryland voters tuned in. For those who did watch, the debate turned out to be well structured and informative.

The guidelines were fairly simple with each candidate given time for an opening and closing statement. The moderator Jeff Salkin kept the debate flowing and the questions that were asked by Charles Robinson, of MPT, and David Collins, of WBAL-TV, were of interest to the viewer and each candidate was given time for rebuttal.

Topics included funding for education, deregulation of the electric industry, negative advertising, and the problems with gangs in Maryland.

Each side will no doubt claim victory by pointing out various statements the other candidate said that may not have been entirely accurate or which showed the difference in their respective positions. The spin from both sides began in full earnest after the second debate aired last night and will continue until November 7.

However, in the areas of warmth, personality, sincerity, and leadership style, Mayor O'Malley clearly was the better of the two candidates. He always comes across as if he was talking to you at home and that he had your interests in mind. He looked and acted like a governor and at times came across as presidential in nature.

Governor Ehrlich, on the other hand, did not look like he was prepared and haltingly gave answers as he was shuffling through his paperwork. He came across as an angry man who was upset that he had to defend his term as governor.

>From his opening statement, to his answers to the questions, to his closing remarks, Mayor O'Malley appeared to want to bring people together, not push them apart. Solutions to problems are easier resolved by people working together and not against each other. He was sincere in his concern as to the problems the working men and women of Maryland are experiencing.

I first met Mayor O'Malley a short time after he had been elected mayor of Baltimore. I asked him to come to Frederick and headline an event to benefit the local Democratic Party. He gladly agreed and it was at this event that I first heard him use the phrase "there is more that unites us than divides us." He used that phrase again during the debate; and it as true today as the first time I heard him say it.

Health care accessibility and affordability was another area Mayor O'Malley said we need to improve; and he said that his health care policy was posted online on his web site at

In the area of education, he discussed the need to fully fund "Thornton" and to provide funding to renovate existing schools and to construct new ones so the children of Maryland have a seat inside a classroom and an opportunity to learn. His positions on education are also posted on his web site.

There was heated discussion when it came to deregulation of the energy industry. It was here that Mayor O'Malley made another strong statement that resonates with voters when he said "that he stood with the working people of Maryland while Ehrlich stood with the utility industry."

At the end of the debate I switched the channel back to the baseball game and discovered that Tiger outfielder Magglio Ordonez had hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the championship for the Tigers.

The other walk-off home run hit Saturday night was by Mayor Martin O'Malley, who clearly out performed Governor Ehrlich in their first televised live debate.

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