ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Dan Cox, a far-right state legislator endorsed by former President Donald Trump, won the Republican primary for Maryland governor on Tuesday, defeating a moderate rival backed by outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan.
Despite being a win for Trump, Cox’s victory over former Hogan Cabinet member Kelly Schulz could be a blow to Republican chances to hold on to the seat in November. Hogan, who was prohibited from running for a third consecutive term, was a rare two-term Republican governor in a heavily Democratic state, and he had endorsed Schulz as the successor to his bipartisan style of leadership.
Cox will face the winner of the Democratic primary in the November general election. Wes Moore, a bestselling author backed by Oprah Winfrey, had an early lead Tuesday night, with the focus starting to turn to mail ballots that won’t be counted until later in the week.
The Republican primary was viewed as a proxy battle between Trump and Hogan, who offered vastly different visions of the party’s future as they consider 2024 campaigns for the White House. Hogan, one of Trump’s most prominent GOP critics, urged the party to move on from his divisive brand of politics, while Trump spent much of his post-presidency lifting candidates who embrace his election lies.
One of those candidates was Cox, who organized busloads of protesters to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. Cox has also said President Joe Biden’s victory shouldn’t have been certified, called former Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” and sought unsuccessfully to impeach Hogan for his pandemic policies.
Democrats were likely giddy over Cox’s win in the Republican primary. The Democratic National Committee plowed more than $1 million behind an ad intended to boost Cox, seeing him as an easier opponent in November.
It could potentially take days, or even longer, to determine the winners in the most closely contested races, including the Democratic primary for governor. Maryland law prohibits counties from opening mail ballots until the Thursday after election day.
In another top race Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen beat back a primary challenge just months after suffering a minor stroke. He is favored in November to win a second term.
Voters were also picking nominees for an open seat in the state’s eight-member congressional delegation. And the daughter of the state’s former attorney general was vying for her father’s old job.
Ten candidates in all were seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. Tom Perez, a former US labor secretary and former Democratic Party chair, had support from labor unions, while Moore, the former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, was endorsed by the state’s teachers union and the two top Maryland legislative leaders, House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson.
Another top candidate, state Comptroller Peter Franchot, who comfortably won four races to be the state’s tax collector, brought significant name recognition to the primary.
Voting Laura Kretchman, a 41-year-old high school teacher, said Moore’s endorsement by the Maryland State Education Association helped her choose him. She said she’s impressed by Moore’s accomplishments after rising above childhood challenges and being raised by a single mom.
“I teach children at a school that also come from difficult upbringings, so I’d like to see maybe what he can bring to helping those students that are struggling and challenged,” said Kretchman, an Annapolis resident.
Other voters said they preferred a long resume of government service. Curtis Fatig, a 67-year-old voter in Annapolis, settled on Perez, who also worked on the Montgomery County Council, as Maryland’s secretary of labor and as the assistant attorney general for civil rights in Obama’s administration.
“He’s not a newcomer,” said Fatig.
At an elementary school in Silver Spring, many Democrats said they cast a ballot for governor with an eye toward November’s general election.
Retired high school teacher Tom Hilton, 75, said he viewed the Democratic primary field as “kind of a toss-up” but ultimately picked Franchot.
“Mainly for the financial parts,” Hilton said. “I think he’ll be a little bit more attuned to having a more secure financial future for Maryland.”
Cox’s victory on Tuesday serves as a win for Trump, who has a mixed endorsement record in this year’s midterm elections. But in such a heavily Democratic state, his candidate faces an uphill battle heading into the fall.
Trump’s endorsement of Cox helped him earn 22-year-old Cameron Martin’s vote.
“The main reason was because he was endorsed by Trump,” Martin said, adding that he feels like Cox shares his Republican values and that “he will best represent me.”
Maryland’s only open congressional seat is in the 4th Congressional District, a heavily Democratic Black-majority district. Incumbent US Rep. Anthony Brown is leaving to run for attorney general. Train Rep. Donna Edwards, who previously held the seat, trailed former county prosecutor Glenn Ivey in early results in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
The Democratic primary for attorney general has turned into a battle between former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s wife, Katie Curran O’Malley, who is a former Baltimore judge and the daughter of former Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., and Brown, O’Malley’s lieutenant governor who lost the 2014 governor’s race to Hogan. Brown had an early lead in the race.
The two are vying to replace Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh, who is retiring. Maryland hasn’t had a Republican attorney general in nearly 70 years.
In other races, candidates are on the ballot for all 188 seats in the Maryland General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats.
The Maryland primary was delayed by three weeks because of lawsuits challenging the state’s congressional and state legislative maps.
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___ Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman in Silver Spring contributed to this report.