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Ehrlich, O’Malley debate the debates

The question of when, where and how the former guv and current guv will meet before Election Day took center stage and temporarily, but not totally, took over the governor’s race on Thursday.

Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich wants five debates with current Gov. Martin O’Malley, Ehrlich’s campaign announced Thursday morning.

“We look forward to a healthy and civil exchange of ideas and hope to reach an agreement with you so the sponsoring groups can begin preparations,” Ehrlich communications director Henry Fawell wrote in a letter to O’Malley campaign manager Tom Russell.

The letter, of course, contained a jab or two, which wasn’t surprising given the months-long sparring match the candidates have engaged in over the state of the economy.  One sentence began: “With 211,000 Marylanders currently unable to find work, Marylanders deserve a thorough exchange of ideas…”

The O’Malley camp responded with an eye toward the Sept. 14 primary, where Ehrlich’s ticket faces a challenge from former Constellation Energy portfolio manager Brian Murphy.

“We will be happy to debate whoever is the Republican nominee after the primary,” Russell wrote.

(O’Malley, too, faces a contested primary, but most view his and Ehrlich’s primary contests as formalities, even with Murphy recently winning an endorsement from Sarah Palin.)

Ehrlich’s proposed debates break down like this:

  • WMAR-TV “Square Off” with Richard Sher as moderator; 60-minute debate with no timed responses.  Taped for live on Sept. 16 in the afternoon with no audience.
  • WJLA-TV/NewsChannel 8 in association with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce; 60 minutes with no timed responses; Bruce DePuyt as moderator.
  • Radio debate hosted by the Baltimore Jewish Council.  Broadcaster, length, moderator and rules to be determined.
  • WOLB Radio hosts a 60-minute debate, moderated by Senator Larry Young. No timed responses.
  • WTOP Radio debate with host to be determined; Oct. 29 at 10 a.m.; 60 minutes with no timed responses.

O’Malley’s response says the campaign has “agreed to participate in debates hosted by the Washington Post, the Baltimore Jewish Council, WJZ-TV, WMAR-TV, WTOP Radio and others” and ups the ante with a proposed series of running mate debates.

“We look forward to meeting with the Ehrlich campaign should he win the Republican primary to work out the details of these debates; and a round of debates and appearances with Lt. Governor (Anthony) Brown and Mary Kane,” the response said.

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