OWINGS MILLS, Md. (DC News Now) — The one and only gubernatorial debate Wednesday between Democrat Wes Moore and Republican Dan Cox was full of political theater, name calling and fisticuffs.

Both contenders to be Maryland’s next governor took aim at each other over abortion, taxes, crime, among other issues. Both said repeatedly the other wasn’t being truthful.

Cox called Moore a “phony” who lied about growing up in Baltimore in his best-selling book. Moore described Cox as “unfit for office,” a 2020 presidential “election denier” and someone that even outgoing GOP Gov. Larry Hogan wouldn’t embrace.

Simply put, these two candidates couldn’t be more different and didn’t agree on much of anything in the debate at Maryland Public Television headquarters.

For Cox who is trailing in every poll taken on the race, needed the debate – and has lobbied hard for more – to sully his opponent and contrast their views. For Moore, he needed to counterpunch Cox and portray him as too extreme for Marylanders.

In many respects, Moore and Cox did what they came for.

To start, Cox was asked if he’d accept the election conclusion, especially after having lost in court to stop the counting of mail-in ballots – a key point Donald Trump made in alleging voter fraud two years ago.

“I’ve always accepted election results and that are fair and that are following the Constitution,” he said. “At this point it would be similar to saying that before a surgery takes place to find out whether or not to decide whether or not the surgery went well.”

That’s when Moore pounced, reading a Tweet from Cox about arranging buses to attend the ill-fated Trump rally that resulted in the invasion of the U.S. Capitol building last year.

“We have free, fair and transparent elections in our state. Never has the question of election integrity come up in state of Maryland and they will not come up in 2022,” he said. “And I will honor the results of the election. And that I’m hoping my opponent will do the same.”

Then he invoked Hogan and how he called Cox unfit to be governor to defend his lack of agreeing to other debates.

“When you look at the reason he won’t debate it’s because he’s a phony. There are so many things in his book that are completely false,” the Republican declared. “He claims he was raised in Baltimore city. But sir, you weren’t there until you were 34.”

Moore returned fire: “Frankly I’m standing on stage right now with an extremist election denier whose rhetoric and whose policies are not just dangerous and divisive, but will take our state backwards.”

From the economy to crime to abortion to LGBTQ issues, the barbs continued to fly.

Cox continued to repeat his claims that Moore wants to defund the police based on a Salon.com interview, a charge Moore denies. And Moore labeled called Cox “dangerous” on the abortion issue because he opposes abortion even to save a woman’s life.

This was a debate that Cox needed and that Moore wanted to limit to one.

Now it’s in the hands of the voters who will get a final glimpse of these candidates in upcoming commercials and appearances in the remaining four weeks of the campaign.