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Maryland GOP Throws It All Away

Republicans turned their backs on their popular two-term governor, Larry Hogan, by elevating a crank over his chosen moderate successor.
by Jim Swift
July 20, 2022
Maryland GOP Throws It All Away
EMMITSBURG, MD - JULY 19: Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox reacts to his primary win on July 19, 2022 in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Cox, who is supported by former President Donald Trump, is running to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Back in April, I introduced readers to Dan Cox, a far-right kook and Maryland state legislator running for governor. The Democratic Governors Association had a few weeks earlier run a poll suggesting that Cox would defeat Kelly Schulz, the hand-picked successor of moderate Republican governor Larry Hogan, by 8 points.

That surprised me, since Schulz is a typical Hogan Republican, Hogan is quite popular, and Dan Cox is, well, nuts.

There has been a lot of unserious whining about Democrats trying to pick their opponents this election cycle. In this case, some commentators suggested that the DGA poll was bunk—that the Democrats were inflating the numbers for Cox to help build support for him, since he’d be an easier Republican to defeat. But the polling outfit is a reputable one and the poll looked solid.

Well, the results are conclusively in, and as of 2 a.m. Cox is beating Schulz by 16 points, double the gap in the DGA poll. That margin will shrink as mail-in ballots are counted, but the race is over: The AP called the election for Cox around 11 p.m.

About those mail-in ballots: Under Maryland law, they can’t be counted until Thursday. It’s possible that Schulz will perform better in the mail-ins than in the election-day totals. But as of 2 a.m., Schulz is down about 37,000 votes in the election-day totals, which suggests that she would have to win nearly all of the mail-in ballots—of which there were 38,000 received by July 18.

So Maryland Republicans now have Dan Cox as their nominee for governor and the similarly nuts Gordana Schifanelli as their nominee for lieutenant governor. Don’t be surprised if you hear unhappy conservative commentators kvetching about how the Dems’ strategy of spending small change on Cox caused his lead to double. But the reality is that the base wants what the base wants, and Maryland Republicans wanted them some Dan Cox.

Anything can happen in politics, but the safe bet is that whomever Democrats nominate—as of this writing, the race is too close to call, with Wes Moore (a veteran, author, charity CEO, Rhodes Scholar, and host of a show on the Oprah network) leading Tom Perez (the former secretary of labor)—will win in November, given Maryland’s overwhelmingly Democratic voter affiliation numbers. It would take a moderate in the mold of Hogan, as Schulz is, to win the state for the GOP.

A Schulz adviser put it starkly:

Few other surprises emerged from yesterday’s voting. Thanks to solid Democratic control across most of the state, Republicans really only get one House district—Maryland’s first, which leans right 25 points—and that district’s incumbent, Rep. Andy Harris, ran unopposed in his primary.

But in the Sixth Congressional District on the western side of the state, there was a late media flurry about a young candidate named Matthew Foldi, a former writer for the Washington Free Beacon who focused his primary campaign on trolling Democratic incumbent David Trone—accusing Trone, the owner of the Total Wine chain, of “literally not working” and being a “part-time Congressman.” Oddly, Foldi received endorsements from Donald Trump Jr., Kevin McCarthy, and Larry Hogan. The endorsements didn’t help, though: Foldi was crushed by almost 50 points as of this writing, losing the GOP nomination to Neil Parrott, a state legislator who challenged Trone once before. (Parrott lost that race by 20 points, but his rematch against Trone is expected to be much more competitive following the state’s recent redistricting.)

In Montgomery County, a suburb of Washington, D.C., the Democrats had a hot primary for county executive that is still too close to call. Incumbent executive Marc Elrich is again facing David Blair, a local businessman. Much of the race revolved around Elrich’s controversial remarks on affordable housing, with former Harry Reid staffer Adam Jentleson forming a SuperPAC to fire Elrich over his record.

In the Fourth Congressional District, former Rep. Donna Edwards lost an open race for her old seat. Edwards retired after losing a Senate bid in 2016. The winner, Glenn Ivey, is a former state’s attorney with an impressive history in government: He was an assistant U.S. attorney and served as a top-level congressional aide. There are Republicans running, but none of them stands much of a chance—not even likely primary winner Jeff Warner, a pastor.

Aside from a win for Larry Hogan’s own daughter yesterday—she clinched the Republican nomination for state’s attorney in St. Mary’s County—it seems that Larry Hogan Republicanism is all but over. The Maryland GOP will likely have one lonely Trumpy congressman, Andy Harris, whom the Baltimore Sun called an “unrepentant Jan. 6 co-conspirator.” They used to have Roscoe Bartlett, a fascinating, honorable man who now lives off the grid.

A few Maryland Republicans might want to go join him in the wilderness.

Jim Swift

Jim Swift is a senior editor at The Bulwark.