ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Dan Cox, a far-right state legislator backed by former President Donald Trump, won the Republican primary for Maryland governor on Tuesday, defeating a moderate rival backed by outgoing governor Larry Hogan.
Cox will face the winner of the highly competitive Democratic primary in November’s general election. Wes Moore, a bestselling author supported by Oprah Winfreyhad an early lead on Tuesday night, with focus beginning to shift to ballots that won’t be counted until later in the week.
Despite being a win for Trump, Cox’s win over former Hogan cabinet member Kelly Schulz could be a blow to Republican odds to hold onto the governor’s mansion in November. Hogan, who was banned from running for the third straight term, was a rare two-term Republican governor in a strongly Democratic state, and he had endorsed Schulz as the successor to his bipartisan leadership style.
Cox has been a thorn in Hogan’s side in recent years, suing the governor’s home orders and regulations in the early days of the pandemic and unsuccessfully trying to impeach him for COVID-19 orders that Cox called “restrictive and lengthy.” . .”
Alluding to his battle with Hogan in his victory speech Tuesday night, Cox told a cheering crowd, “We will never again surrender our bodies, our churches, and our businesses to a locked-down state.”
The Republican primaries were seen as a proxy battle between Trump and Hogan, which offered wildly different visions of the party’s future when considering 2024 campaigns for the White House. Hogan, one of Trump’s most prominent GOP critics, urged the party to move away from its divisive politics, while Trump spent much of his post-presidency elevating candidates whose lies about promote a stolen 2020 election.
One such candidate was Cox, who organized busloads of protesters to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the January 6 U.S. Capitol uprising. Cox has also said President Joe Biden’s victory should not have been certified and tweeted that former Vice President Mike Pence was a “traitor.” Cox later deleted the tweet and apologized.
Democrats were probably giddy about Cox’s victory in the Republican primary. The Democratic Governors Association plowed more than $1 million behind an ad intended to boost Cox, seeing him as an easier opponent in November.
Trump, too, was delighted, saying in a statement shortly before the race was called, “RINO Larry Hogan’s endorsement doesn’t seem to be working out too well for his very favorite candidate. Next, I’d like to see Larry run for president!”
Cox joins Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Darren Bailey in Illinois as Trump-backed ultra-conservative state lawmakers who have won their Republican nominations for governor. All three fought their governors’ COVID-19 policies, vigorously oppose abortion rights and questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
In Maryland, it could potentially take days or even longer to determine the winners in the most contested races, including the Democratic primary for governor. Maryland law prohibits counties from opening mail ballots until the Thursday after Election Day.
In one of the night’s earliest races, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen defeated a primary challenge just months after suffering a minor stroke. He is favorite in November to win a second term against Republican Chris Chaffee, who made a failed congressional bid in 2014.
Baltimore state attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is awaiting trial for federal criminal charges, has fallen behind early return in her three-time Democratic primary as she seeks a third term.
Mosby is charged with perjury and making false statements about loan applications to buy real estate in Florida. She achieved national fame in 2015 when she brought criminal charges against six police officers for the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a spinal cord injury after police handcuffed him, chained him and head-in a van. put. None of the officers were convicted.
In the Democratic primary for governor, the top candidates were Moore, the former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization; Tom Perez, a former United States Secretary of Labor and former chairman of the Democratic Party; and Peter Franchot, the state’s four-year comptroller.
Laura Kretchman, a 41-year-old high school teacher, said she voted for Moore, partly because of his support from the state teachers’ union. She said she was impressed with Moore’s achievements after rising above the challenges of her childhood and being raised by a single mother.
“I teach kids at a school who also come from a difficult upbringing, so I’d like to see what he might bring to help those students who are struggling and challenged,” said Kretchman, an Annapolis resident.
Other voters said they favored a long resumption of government service. That’s why Curtis Fatig, 67, voted for Perez. “He’s no newcomer,” said Fatig.
Cox’s win on Tuesday serves as a win for Trump, who has a mixed record in this year’s midterm elections. But in such a heavily Democratic state, his candidate faces an uphill battle heading into the fall.
Some Republican voters said Trump’s endorsement persuaded them to vote for Cox. Others said it didn’t matter.
David Gateau, 63, said he voted for Cox because he believes “Maryland is extremely liberal and we need to get back to some values.” Trump’s approval, he said, wasn’t much of a factor.
“I think Hogan was more of a RINO than a Republican governor, and I think our state reflects that,” Gateau said.
Cameron Martin, 22, said Trump’s endorsement was the “main reason” for voting for Cox, but added that he feels Cox shares his Republican values and that “he will represent me best.”
Maryland’s only open congressional seat was in the 4th congressional district, a strongly black-majority Democratic district. Former prosecutor Glenn Ivey won the Democratic primary, defeating former Representative Donna Edwards, who previously held the seat.
The incumbent in the 4th district, Rep. Anthony Brown, left his seat to run for Attorney General. He won the Democratic primary on Tuesday night, beating Katie Curran O’Malley, the former first lady, a former Baltimore judge and the daughter of former Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. Brown, Governor Martin O’Malley’s lieutenant governor.
Candidates were on the ballot for all 188 seats in the Maryland General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats.
The Maryland primaries were delayed three weeks due to 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.