Obamacare Woes Heat Up Maryland's Democratic Race for Governor

Monday, 23 Dec 2013 04:44 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler says he supports President Barack Obama's signature healthcare initiative, but he's furious about his own state's botched healthcare exchange website rollout.

Gansler, currently serving as attorney general, says the state exchange's woes are "almost like a 'Saturday Night Live' skit," reports Politico. His complaints are pitting him against Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who heads the state panel on Obamacare, and state Delegate Heather Mizeur in what is shaping up to be one of the nation's key battles among Democrats over the healthcare law.

Brown and Gov. Martin O'Malley had vowed to make their state an early Obamacare success. But like the federal HealthCare.gov site, the Internet home of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange also had serious issues that allowed enabled than 4,000 residents to enroll for insurance by the end of November.

The state exchange's executive director resigned, but the problems have continued, and Gansler has blamed the program's failures on Brown, saying they gave "fodder for Republicans" to scrap Obamacare altogether.

"Brown and others were so boastful about Maryland leading the country, [but] here we are behind such states as Nevada and Kentucky, let alone California and states like that," Gansler said. "I think it's certainly appropriate for Democrats to question what has gone on in individual states regarding people's ability to enroll in an exchange."

Gansler started out as a favorite to succeed O'Malley, but after several incidents he's fallen behind Brown. For example, he was reportedly captured on tape suggesting that Brown, who is African-American, is relying on his race to get votes. Gansler's reputation has also been damaged by news reports showing him at a high-school party where there was underage drinking.

Brown now has the backing of several prominent Marylanders, including O'Malley, Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Politico reports.

Brown campaign manager Justin Schall has dismissed Gansler's attacks on Obamacare as opportunistic criticism, and says the attorney general hasn't done much himself to make sure the exchange works properly.

"As attorney general, Doug Gansler is a member of the Health Care Reform Council, and he hasn't bothered to show up to a meeting in the last two years, so it's a little disingenuous when Doug opines on the importance of Obamacare," Schall said. "When input on healthcare reform was needed, Gansler was nowhere to be found, and now Doug hopes people will forget his absence as he attacks a fellow Democrat on ACA."

Gansler spokesman Bob Wheelock said the attorney general's office was represented at all but one meeting, and accused Brown's gubernatorial campaign of shifting the focus off  Brown's own failures.

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