It's time for thousands of Marylanders to cast their votes in the state's gubernatorial election.
Gen Z's most valued election issues include abortion, gun control and employment, according to a recent survey by BestColleges.
Election integrity, gun control, LGBTQ+ issues in schools, marijuana legalization, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and abortion were major topics when the candidates went head-to-head in a televised debate Oct. 12.
Republican candidate Dan Cox was an attorney and state delegate for Frederick and Carroll Counties for over 15 years, and is former President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate.
Democrat Wes Moore, from Takoma Park, is a combat veteran and former CEO of the anti-poverty organization Robin Hood. Former President Barack Obama endorsed Moore's campaign.
The candidates stated their positions on national abortion legislation and explained how, or if, they would join the national debate on behalf of Maryland.
"I want to make sure everything worked on in Maryland reflects the values and interests of the people," Cox said. "I am pro-life: as Governor, there is very little I can do to override or change [abortion legislation]."
His opponent's response put the topic in Marylanders' hands.
"I believe that abortion is healthcare, and fully trust women to make that decision with their doctors," Moore said. "I want Maryland to be a safe haven."
The candidates also shared how they will address the intersection of gun control and crime prevention
"We are going to bring back law and order and the safety on the streets that everyone is crying out for," Cox said.
The candidate said he will work with law enforcement to seize "guns being used illegally" in Maryland.
"My opponent likes to say that he backs the blue ... The irony is: the blue does not back you," Moore responded. "Police have endorsed our campaign."
The Democratic candidate's plan included detaining illegal guns and violent offenders and strengthening an "understaffed" parole system.
Both candidates have plans to reshape public education in Maryland, reflected in their responses to a question on the state's declining test scores.
"The answer is, we need to do more," Moore said, explaining schools do not receive enough funding for important programs like after-school, summer support and advanced tutoring.
Cox took aim at Moore, saying he plans to redistribute Maryland's wealth.
"It is appalling and reflects the education questions because that is a part of his education program," Cox said. "That's not going to give us a world-class education. We need to get back to reading, writing and arithmetic."
On Cox's website, he pledges to ban education topics like critical race theory (comparing the concept to Marxism) and "gender indoctrination," with plans to give Maryland parents control of education.
Debate panelists asked if LGBTQ+ students are adequately supported in public schools and if all students are sufficiently educated on LGBTQ+ issues.
Cox said he plans to eliminate confidential counseling for students in public schools, which he called a wrongful exclusion of parents.
"What I will do, also, is ensure that the indoctrination stops," Cox said. "We can not have transgender indoctrination in kindergarten."
Moore said educational policies are developed on a local level, but educators, students and their families have his support.
"I want to say to all of our LGBTQ youth and families: I see you and I hear you, and all policies that I make will be in partnership because that is how we have to lead as a state," he said.
Neither candidate spoke on rising inflation rates during the debate, which was limited to one hour.
But on election integrity, Cox was asked whether or not he would accept the results of the election. Cox has openly denied the validity of the 2020 presidential election and funded transportation to the "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol invasion Jan. 6, 2021. Cox said during the debate he has "always accepted election results that are fair and that are following the Constitution."
"Never has the question of election integrity come up in the state of Maryland, and they will not come up in 2022," Moore responded. "We are proud of the election process we have here in the state of Maryland, and I will honor the results of the election, and I am hoping that my opponent would do the same."
Salisbury University's in-state students can find more information about the election and how to vote through the Institute for Public Affairs and Student Engagement (PACE)and the organization's webpage.
By OLIVIA KUNTZ
Featured image courtesy of WBAL-TV 11 Baltimore