BALTIMORE – The Maryland Democratic Party recently held its final Burgers and Brews Gubernatorial Debate for the 2022 primary election at the BC Brewery in Baltimore County.
The forum was moderated by The Baltimore Banner political reporter Pamela Wood and featured several candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor.
The candidates featured at the forum included Rushern Baker, John Baron, Doug Gansler, Ashwani Jain, John King Jr., Tom Perez, and Jerome Segal. The two candidates who were unable to attend were Wes Moore, who had his running mate Aruna Miller come on his behalf, and Peter Franchot.
The moderator asked ten questions of the candidates, mainly focusing on healthcare issues affecting Marylanders.
Some notable questions included senior healthcare improvement, a field where Maryland is nationally ranked 39th.
Ashwani Jain, a cancer survivor, had an interesting response as he discussed his experiences in the Health and Human Services Department and the inequities that he has seen when taking care of his grandmother. He called for investing more money in community health clinics and thus giving providers more incentives to want to invest in rural communities.
He also called for the creation of a caregiver’s program “to offset some of the costs that individuals have when they are caretaking for someone who is elderly or who has a disability…”
Another notable question concerned the food deserts in Baltimore City and how it negatively impacts the people, particularly children, living there.
This was a question that produced many notable replies. One such came from Aruna Miller, who called for more quality transportation options to get people to food providers, “because a lot of times you can’t get to supermarkets when you don’t have public transportation to take you there…”
Jerome Segal compared Baltimore to the city of Philadelphia. He lived for a short while in a food desert in Philly and saw the problem firsthand. He talked about how he helped boost the self-empowerment of the community by founding a food co-op.
“We leap-frogged actually, through the middle-class neighborhoods, and we had wonderful foods,” Segal said.
He claimed to be running as a “bread and roses” socialist and spoke of the importance of community empowerment.
When asked about improving mental health care in Maryland, Doug Gansler responded, “we used to sweep the idea of mental health care under the rug, and now we need to address it full-on, straight on…”
He recommended placing licensed mental health professionals in every school, one for every 250 students in attendance, and defined crime as our number one mental health care issue. Adding that police officers and firefighters should also have access to a reliable mental health network.
Maryland’s prescription drug affordability board, the most affordable one in the nation, entered the discussion soon after. The question on the matter was whether or not the candidates favored expanding the authority of the board.
Tom Perez first thanked Vinny DeMarco, the President of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, for the creation of the board and called for the restoration of its full funding and expanding it.
“As your governor, we are going to work together to address these issues, what we have to do is expand the scope of things so that the board has the authority to make higher costing drugs more affordable…”
The Affordable Care Act was a particularly popular subject, alongside health insurance in general. The moderator wanted to know how the candidate planned to reduce the number of uninsured people in Maryland to zero.
The solution offered by Rushern Baker was that we take the big step toward Medicare for all. He added that Obamacare may have vastly reduced the number of uninsured in Maryland, but it did not go all the way.
Baker suggested that “we take the steps now at the state level, but we have to be a leader nationwide in moving us forward…”
The particularly sensitive topic of mass shootings and gun violence was also brought up. The question here was how they would use a public health lens to remedy the situation.
John King, a former teacher, and principal discussed an experience where he counseled a woman whose son was shot and killed.
He said that he believes the issue needs to be seen as a public health crisis and that “we have to make sure we have the strongest possible gun control laws…”
King talked about strengthening mental health services, and doing a better job of engaging young people to bring down the violence.
For closing remarks, each candidate offered one last word before going off-air for the evening.
A particularly surprising one came from Jon Baron, who said, “A lot of government programs, no matter how well-meaning, no matter how large they are, no matter how long they have been around, do not work.”
He believes that this sets him apart from the other candidate because he thinks government cannot go around spending countless amounts of money on these programs. Tested solutions are needed, according to him.
The date for the Maryland primary election is July 19th, 2022, with early voting taking place July 7th through 14th.
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