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Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox speaks during the gubernatorial forum on Aug. 20, 2022, in Ocean City, Md.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox speaks during the gubernatorial forum on Aug. 20, 2022, in Ocean City, Md.Todd Dudek / AP file

Cox defends his conservative platform at HBCU forum

At a Morgan State event, Maryland's GOP gubernatorial nominee promises more funding but attacks "critical race theory."

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BALTIMORE — At a forum with Black students here Tuesday night, Maryland's GOP gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox promised to improve the relationships between Maryland's four HBCUs and the state government should he win November's general election.

"We don't show up and that's wrong. That's why I'm here today. I think we can do better," Cox told a panel of Morgan State University student moderators and NBC News' Antonia Hylton about state Republicans' relationship with HBCUs.

Speaking about funding for the state's historically Black colleges and universities — Morgan State, Coppin State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Bowie State University — Cox told students that his voting record shows he's in favor of increasing funding for the four institutions.

"I got through college with Pell Grants. I know how hard it is to pay that bill because the Pell Grant doesn't cover it," Cox said.

He added, "And that's why I think you're seeing HBCU students have one of the higher dropout levels from college, because it's not that they don't want the degree. It's because it's so hard to obtain that with making those payments."

Cox did, however, disagree with the notion that HBCUs should provide contraception options for students with funding from the state.

"That should be part of your doctor's and your choice, not something that is forced upon another taxpayer to pay for," he said.

He also vocalized his opposition to funding abortion services for women who travel from other states to obtain abortion services in Maryland, where access to abortion has been enshrined in state law since 1992.

One point of contention between Cox and the student panel was about his position on K-12 education in Maryland. Cox has previously railed against what he calls “transgender indoctrination” and the alleged teaching of critical race theory in schools.

“I want to teach Black history. I want to teach the history -- all the good, bad and the ugly,” Cox said.

Still, Cox railed against supposed “critical race theory” being taught in Maryland.

“The problem with that model is it turns communities against the very people that are there to protect them,” he said, adding that teaching students certain themes about race is divisive.

Cox also championed his stance on medical freedom, a position against Covid vaccine mandates that helped the first-term state delegate rise to prominence during the pandemic.

"I am pro-vaccine," he said, "But to go to college and say you can't go to college ... maybe they had a medical issue, maybe there was a religious exemption issue, but they were being denied entry to class. That's not America. That's not Maryland."

Cox also swiped at his opponent, Democrat Wes Moore, for supporting vaccine mandates and even enforcing them at some of his campaign events.

Moore declined an invitation from The Spokesman, Morgan State's student newspaper, to attend Tuesday's forum.