GOP candidates for governor debate on MPT

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Local,Maryland

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Two Republican candidates for governor of Maryland skirmished over who has fought against tax increases the most during a debate Monday involving four GOP primary candidates.

Del. Ron George, of Anne Arundel County, said opponent Larry Hogan hasn't been the one battling on the front lines in the state capital, as George has from his seat on the House Ways and Means Committee. George criticized a grassroots political group led by Hogan for being late to the fight. While business organizations have come to speak out, George said Change Maryland has been nowhere to be seen in Annapolis.

"They get in the game like I did, and Change Maryland has never come in and testified on any of these bills, so to say it's a grassroots organization, to those on Ways and Means it's an insult," George said. "We've been fighting it for years."

Hogan, a real estate broker who served as appointments secretary in former Gov. Robert Ehrlich's administration, said the grassroots group he says has about 90,000 members has been a leading voice of opposition against Gov. Martin O'Malley's and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's administration for three years. O'Malley is term limited, and Brown is running for the Democratic nomination for governor.

"So while the delegate has done a great job down in the Legislature trying to fight some of these things in committee, we've been out here organizing a grassroots army to try to bring about change and to change the dialogue in this state," Hogan said.

Harford County Executive David Criag focused on his long experience in local government and as a school teacher. If elected, Craig said he would phase out the state's income tax in five years.

"What it will do is it will grow your economy, so it makes the pie bigger, ultimately," Craig said.

Charles County businessman Charles Lollar saved his criticism for Democrats. Lollar also said he would phase at the income tax as well. He said he would make up the savings by cutting wasteful spending.

"The assumption is that their spending their money efficiently now, and that's a terrible assumption to make," Lollar said of the Democratic majority in Annapolis.

The candidates also voiced support for Second Amendment rights and opposition to legalizing marijuana. As they have for much of the primary, the candidates did not talk at length about how they would approach the job of governor differently from opponents.

This time, though, George, kept after Hogan and Change Maryland. George said many of the statistics about how tax increases have affected businesses in the state were uncovered by him, not Hogan's group.

"I think Change Maryland was all about Larry Hogan," George said.

George also got in a dig at Hogan, by saying George's jewelry business in Annapolis never filed for bankruptcy. In 1995, Hogan filed for bankruptcy after new federal lending rules caused a string of bank failure, and new bank owners called in all of Hogan's loans. Hogan said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that he now has a successful business, and the experience was a valuable lesson to him in how small businesses can be impacted by government decisions.

The debate won't air until Friday at 7 p.m. on MPT.

The primary is June 24.

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