The wait is nearly over.
The main event next week are the primaries for the open gubernatorial seat, where moderate Republican Larry Hogan is finishing his second term as Governor in this deep blue state. This phenomenon occurs more often than you’d think in the Northeast, for instance, Republican Governors also currently serve in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
As opposed to those other Governors, though, Hogan has been vocally anti-Trump over the years. In fact, you can make the case that no elected GOP official was a more consistent Never Trumper.
So the Republican primary to replace Hogan has of course become a proxy battle between the outgoing Gov and the former President. At the same time, several Democrats in this navy blue state are eager to take a shot at the top job.
After all, the Maryland Governorship is an especially appealing position for a Democrat. Since the party holds solid majorities in the legislature, you’ll actually be able to get stuff done. Furthermore, since many in the D.C. media literally live in your state, you’ll get extra exposure and may even be able to get your name floated for federal jobs before too soon.
Given all that then, let’s dive into these contests by taking a look at all the major candidates, starting first with the GOP primary.
Cox actually organized buses for the January 6th ‘Stop the Steal’ rally and tweeted that “Mike Pence is a traitor” after the rioters had broken into the Capitol (he later apologized). Pennsylvania GOP Gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, who also organized buses for the rally, is openly supporting and even campaigning with Cox.
Meanwhile, in his TV ads, Cox spends more time going after Gov. Hagan for COVID restrictions than Joe Biden for inflation. Cox even went so far as to introduce articles of impeachment against the Governor earlier this year. Such a personal strategy is sure to be scrutinized if Cox falls short.
Cox led three of the four polls of this race, although there were a high number of undecided, so a Schulz win remains perfectly plausible.
Cox’s main competitor is Larry Hogan’s chosen successor, Kelly Schulz. Schulz, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, left the legislature to serve as Hogan’s Secretary of Labor and then his Secretary of Commerce. In addition to Hogan, Schulz has the support of the local FOP as well as the endorsements of The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun.
With Donald Trump and his base lined up against her, Schulz’s strategy is to run against local and national Democrats, while presenting herself as the only one who can stop them. She’s betting that come November they’ll be a big enough red wave to sweep her into office.
We’ll go alphabetically for the Democrats, which means we’re starting with long-time Comptroller Peter Franchot. On first impression, Franchot can seem a bit of a Biden-like figure; an elder statesman looking to finally get promoted to the top job.
Nor was Franchot shy about drawing such a comparison. In his announcement video, he pledged that “when we build back our economy it will be fundamentally different, and better!” A clever intonation of then President-Elect’s campaign slogan.
In reality, though, the better comparison for Franchot might be John McCain. The Comptroller is much more of a maverick, exemplified by his refusal to support Gov. Hogan’s Democratic opponent in 2018. Thanks to attacks from his fellow Democrats, Franchot recently lost his front-runner status in the polls and is now trying to staunch his downward slide.
Once upon a time, Doug Glanser was a rising star in the Maryland Democratic Party. He won the office of Attorney General in 2006 and sought the Governorship eight years later. That campaign wound up being a disaster, torpedoed by allegations that he urged state troopers to speed while driving him around and ignored underage drinking at a party.
Glanser lost that primary handily, a defeat he called “very humbling” in his 2022 campaign kickoff video. Such a strategy, though, has him stuck in a distant fifth place; so he tried to play on voters’ fear of crime instead with an ad that opens up with an attempted carjacking. Suffice to say, it looks like another disappointing finish is in Glanser’s future.
John King Jr.
Of the five major Democratic primary candidates, no one has secured more support from the left wing of the party than John King Jr. For instance, King’s won the endorsement of the Maryland chapters of NOW, Our Revolution, the Sunshine Movement and the Sierra Club.
King, who served as Secretary of Education during the final six months of President Obama’s tenure, is eagerly running as a teacher aiming to fix inequalities in the state’s education system. So far, King has struggled to break through in polls that weren’t sponsored by his campaign. Yet if he’s able to truly unite the progressive vote, he very well could pull off a victory in this crowded field.
You’d think that Tom Perez, who served as DNC Chair from 2017 to 2021, would’ve locked down establishment support in his bid to be Maryland’s next Governor. That, however, isn’t really the case. Sure, the former Secretary of Labor has tons of union support, plus the endorsement of The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, but not nearly as many elected officials are backing Perez as you might expect.
Perhaps as a result, Perez is running TV ads with old footage of President Obama praising him in the hopes that viewers will believe it’s an endorsement. His campaign also posted a similar video online featuring past praise from then-Vice President Biden. One high-profile endorsement Perez really did get, though, is from Speaker Nancy Pelsoi (her father was Mayor of Baltimore).
In his other TV spots, Perez is choosing to emphasize pressing national issues like abortion rather than local ones. As a result, if Perez ultimately prevails, it will likely be credited to a resurgent wave of pro-choice Democrats angry at the recent Dobbs decision. One final factor to watch is whether the state’s growing Hispanic population helps push Perez over the finish line.
Wes Moore, a best-selling author, is selling voters on his own unique biography: the troubled child of a single mother who grew up to serve in Afghanistan, lead a non-profit organization and become friends with Oprah. Moore’s TV ads are almost entirely about his biography. To the extent that they feature any one issue, they use his own background to highlight the importance of education.
Given how much emphasis Moore puts on his biography, CNN’s Edward Isaac-Dovere dug into Moore’s claims and found the author had significantly simplified his own story over the years. His supporters, including Oprah, are staying with him but any questioning of his integrity could be deadly for his brand.
Now, the polling we have shows Franchot, Moore and Perez all within the margin of the error for the lead. Therefore, the best path to victory for Moore would involve solidifying the Black vote. Remember that Maryland has the fourth largest share of Black residents among the 50 states, and the most outside of the South. Moore’s largest obstacle then, is probably John King Jr., another Black candidate in the race running on education. So if King underperforms, it will likely be to Moore’s benefit.
Altogether, we have five and maybe even six candidates who could realistically win one of the nominations in this Gubernatorial race. These contests are sure to be exciting to watch, and remember we’ve also got the Congressional primaries as well. Make sure, then, to visit Decision Desk HQ Tuesday night to get all the latest results!