Maryland holds primaries for governor

FAN Editor

Polls have closed in Maryland, where the primary elections for governor on Tuesday serve as the latest barometer for former President Donald Trump’s influence over the Republican Party, as well as an example of how Democratic candidates are looking to address the rising rate of crime. 

The GOP primary here is a proxy war between two Republicans eyeing 2024 presidential bids, the sitting governor, Larry Hogan, and Trump. Hogan, who is term limited, won in 2014 and 2018 in a reliably Democratic state as a moderate Republican. He is looking to continue the winning streak for Republicans in his mold and has backed his former secretary of commerce, Kelly Schulz. 

Kelly Schultz, GOP candidate for governor, Maryland Schultz campaign website

Trump has backed Maryland Delegate Dan Cox, who has embraced his debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen and has called for a forensic audit. The former president held a telerally for Cox in the closing week of the race. 

“You don’t want Hogan’s anointed successor. Anybody he wants, frankly, I’d be against just on that basis alone,” Trump said during the telerally.

Members of the Reopen Maryland group protest the stay at home orders by Maryland Govenor Larry Hogan around the State House on Friday Afternoon.
FILE: ANNAPOLIS, MD – MAY 15: Maryland Del. Dan Cox, a Frederick Republican. Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Cox has held a small lead over Schulz in most polls on the race, but trails her in fundraising and has spent a fraction of what she has spent on advertisements, according to data from AdImpact. 

But Cox has been boosted by independent expenditure ads by the Democratic Governors Association, who spent $1.2 million to highlight his conservative credentials and his Trump endorsement. Democrats have used this strategy successfully to boost far-right Republican candidates in Illinois and Pennsylvania, and unsuccessfully in Colorado. 

“Dan Cox is a pathological liar, a conspiracy nut, and he’s completely unfit to serve as governor — and that’s exactly why the DGA is willing to spend this kind of money supporting him,” Schulz said in a statement

While Schulz and Hogan have blasted the approach, the committee points to Cox’s lead in the polls and says it is getting a headstart for the general election. A late June poll by Goucher College, Baltimore Banner and WYPR showed Cox with 25% and Schulz with 22%, though 44% were undecided. 

“Cox was a single-term delegate from Frederick county. A backbencher, somebody that people really didn’t know. But out of sort of nowhere he’s become a competitive candidate,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Center for Politics at Goucher College. “It’s clear that the Trump endorsement helped Cox [in the primary]. Trump remains a popular figure among Maryland Republicans, and a very unpopular figure among everyone else.”

Because mail ballots cannot be counted until Thursday morning, the winner may not be known for several days or weeks, says Kromer.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) endorses Maryland gubernatorial candidate, Wes Moore.
FILE, APR. 29: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Wes Moore, speaks during press conference with Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md. Eric Lee for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Meanwhile, nine Democratic candidates are running to be the state’s first Democratic governor in over seven years. Only three have consistently polled over double digits: author and nonprofit executive Wes Moore, comptroller Peter Franchot and former Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez. 

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, weighing a gubernatorial run, at Denizens brewpub, on August 20 in Silver Spring, MD.
FILE: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, weighing a gubernatorial run, chats with customers at Denizens brewpub, in Silver Spring, MD.  Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Democratic primary has turned into a microcosm of how the party, and its candidates, is shifting its tone on crime and policing. The issue of public safety is becoming more of a priority for Democratic voters. A poll by Goucher College in late June showed that 69% of Democratic voters thought of “crime and public safety” as a major concern, behind inflation and climate change. 

Maryland Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Perez Campaigns Ahead Of Tuesday's Primary
JULY 15: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Perez greets commuters at the Shady Grove Metro Station on July 15, 2022 in Rockville, Maryland. Win McNamee / Getty Images

When candidates in the state talk about crime, Baltimore is the city that comes up on the trail. The city has seen steady upticks in gun-related incidents and robberies in the past year.

Former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler has made crime central to his campaign. A TV ad from his campaign features a reenactment of a carjacking and claims Gansler has the experience to tackle the problem.

“People feel less safe because they are less safe,” Gansler said in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Sunday. He called the movement to defund the police a “nonstarter” and has called for a thousand more police officers to patrol the streets.

“We can’t think that simply adding officers alone is going to solve the problem,” counters Moore, who spoke at a festival in Westminster the same day. “The candidates who will be rewarded are those who are thinking holistically.”

Perez notes that the defund the police movement never resonated with mainstream Democrats. 

“There were a few people who talked about defunding the police. It wasn’t Joe Biden, it certainly wasn’t Tom Perez, and it wasn’t the vast majority of Democrats. What I have said is we need to work together and invest in making sure police departments are effective and are respecting the Constitution,” Perez said in Baltimore on Monday. 

By contrast, Cox and Schulz have both touted their support from law enforcement and have criticized local Democratic prosecutors. 

Larry Stafford, executive director of Progressive Maryland, a group that backed Perez, said the party has had a “tough challenge” balancing acknowledging root issues of crime and addressing public safety. 

“We’re afraid to go downtown, a lot of people are, or out at night, a lot of people are,” said Baltimore retiree Joe Godsy. “When I was a child, you could walk anywhere. Now, you just can’t do that.”

In the U.S. Senate race, CBS News projects incumbent Chris Van Hollen wins the Democratic nomination. In Democratic the primaries for the U.S. House, CBS News projected the following incumbents have won re-nomination: Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger in the 2nd District, John Sarbanes in 3rd District, Steny Hoyer in the 5th District, David Trone in 6th District, Kweisi Mfume in 7th District, Jamie Raskin in 8th District. 

CBS News projects Heather Mizeur wins the Democratic nomination in the 1st U.S. House District. She will face Republican incumbent Andy Harris, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination in the 1st District.  

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