Maryland GOP Gubernatorial Primary a Bitter Trump-Hogan Proxy Battle

During and after his tenure in the White House, there was no love lost between Donald Trump and Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who was and remains among the former president’s most outspoken critics from within the Republican Party.

With Hogan term-limited and reportedly pondering a run for the presidency himself, that enmity has carried over into Maryland’s July 19 GOP gubernatorial primary to select the party’s candidate to succeed the popular governor—a Republican twice-elected to lead a Democrat-dominated state.

There are four candidates on the Republican gubernatorial ballot, but the contest boils down to a two-way battle between Hogan-backed Kelly Schulz—a moderate who served in his cabinet as labor secretary and commerce secretary—and Trump-endorsed state Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick)—a conservative attorney who sponsored a failed bid to impeach the governor in March.

Maryland Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox meets with Donald Trump in May, six months after securing the former president’s endorsement in his primary clash with Kelly Schultz, who is backed by Trump critic and term-limited Gov. Larry Hogan. (Courtesy of Cox for Freedom)

The winner of what is projected to be a tight race between Schultz and Cox in November will face the Democrat who emerges victorious from their nine-candidate primary scrum.

With the state’s July 7-14 early voting period drawing to a close, turnout for primary elections has been light, reports the Maryland State Board of Elections (MSBE). The state’s primary slate includes inter-party races for governor, attorney general, comptroller, one U.S. Senate seat, eight U.S. House seats, the state legislature, and local races.

In 2018, the last primary in a non-presidential election year, 872,207 people—about 24 percent of eligible voters—cast ballots, with 30,122 mailing them in.

For the 2022 midterm primaries, more than 500,000 Marylanders have requested mail-in ballots, with about 115,000 returned by July 12, according to MSBE.

Maryland law prohibits counting mail-in votes until the Thursday after Election Day. Conclusive results won’t be available until that day at the soonest, with late-counted ballots likely to determine the winner in the Schultz-Cox race and many other primary contests.

A Goucher College Poll of 414 Republican voters, conducted June 15-19 and published June 28, showed Cox garnering 25 percent of the vote and Schulz 22 percent. Nearly half of those surveyed were undecided, and many who favored a candidate said they could change their minds by Election Day.

From Christian School Teacher to Anti-Mandate Attorney

Cox, 47, worked as a Christian school teacher and real estate agent before earning a law degree from Regent University. His law firm sued Hogan over his COVID-19 restrictions and represented a man who sued local officials for arresting him for not wearing a mask at a polling site.

He ran for the U.S. House in 2016, losing the Maryland Congressional District 8 (CD 8) election to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who was the lead impeachment manager for the second impeachment of President Donald Trump in 2021 and now sits on the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack.

Cox was elected as a delegate to a four-year term in the Maryland General Assembly in 2018, where he is regarded as one of its most conservative lawmakers, sponsoring stymied bills seeking to protect the unborn from abortion, limit the governor’s emergency powers, protect second amendment rights, and require schools to provide parents with information about the health and well-being of their children.

His campaign platform states that if elected, he will file bills restricting more abortions, banning mask and vaccine mandates, eliminating rights that discriminate based on gender, and authorizing a federal audit of the 2020 election.

Cox vigorously opposed Maryland’s COVID-19 mitigation measures and challenged the state’s certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory after observing mail-in ballot counts in Philadelphia.

He chartered buses for the Jan. 6 rally and, during the Capitol protest, called Vice President Mike Pence “a traitor” in a Twitter post he later deleted.

Cox’s platform is similar to Trump-endorsed Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Sen. Doug Mastriano’s campaign. His lieutenant governor running mate is U.S. Naval Academy law and economics professor Gordana Schifanelli, a Yugoslavian immigrant.

In March, Cox accused Hogan of malfeasance in office, theft of “the people’s liberty and property,” and “deprivation of the religious liberties of the people” in a bill to initiate impeachment proceedings. It was never heard.

Cox’s campaign has only raised about $188,000, according to the MSBE—four times less than Schultz’s. But he has received significant publicity boosts from Trump, who has not just endorsed him but has been actively monitoring the campaign.

Epoch Times Photo
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks to a press conference in Annapolis, Md., on Aug. 5, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In a July 12 statement, Trump said, “Dan Cox is doing a great job running for Governor of Maryland. He will bring dignity back to a State that is much more ‘red’ than anyone would ever know or believe. Dan will fight for our schools, our jobs, and our entire way of life. More importantly, Dan will end Larry Hogan’s terrible RINO reign by defeating his ‘Never Trump’ successor, another low-energy RINO, Kelly Schulz.

“Dan will do an amazing job restoring FREEDOM to a shutdown Maryland,” Trump continued. “Hogan is one of the worst in the Country, governed more like a Democrat than a Republican, cheated with South Korea on the Covid tests, and locked everything up with really bad results. Dan Cox is a terrific guy with a beautiful family. He has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

Trump also called into a July 13 “tele-rally” on Cox’s behalf.

From Bartending Student to Secretary of Commerce

Schulz, 53, worked as a waitress and a bartender before earning a bachelor’s degree in political science at Hood College in 2006. After serving as a Maryland House Republican Caucus aide, she was appointed to a position in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush.

Elected to the Maryland House in 2010, she was appointed by Hogan to his cabinet as the state’s Secretary for the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. She later served as the state’s Secretary of Commerce, where she worked to keep businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic and launched Maryland’s “Innovation Uncovered” initiative.

Regarded as the “establishment candidate,” Schultz touts GOP “traditional values.” She vows to expand school choice, repeal a state tax that links gas taxes to inflation, and “treat criminals like criminals.” In recent days, she has introduced a “parental bill of rights” promising to keep “schools open” and “masks off.”

“Maryland parents deserve to have a voice in their child’s education, and all students, regardless of their zip code, deserve a world-class education,” she said in a July 13 Twitter post. “That’s why I have a ‘Parental Bill of Rights,’ it is about empowering parents and giving every single child a chance to succeed.”

The only woman in Maryland’s crowded gubernatorial race, if elected, Schulz would be the state’s first female governor.

She has touted her capacity as Hogan’s protege to work with Democrats and independents in deep blue Maryland to get things done.

Her campaign has called Cox “unstable” and “unfit for office,” citing Hogan’s 2021 claim that he is a “QAnon whack job.” She maintains that Cox would be routed in a general election, alleging that Democratic groups are contributing to his campaign to ensure an unelectable Republican is on the November ballot.

As of early July, her campaign has raised more than $800,000—nearly as much as her three opponents combined. Her lieutenant governor running mate is Dr. Jeff Woolford, who served 30 years in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft mechanic, fighter pilot, and flight surgeon. An Afghanistan combat veteran, he is a Maryland Air National Guard colonel.

Another Attorney and a Democrat

The other two candidates in the GOP gubernatorial primary are Robin Ficker and Joe Werner.

Ficker, 79, has been a perennial candidate for local and state offices since running for Congress in 1972. He served in the Maryland House between 1979-83.

An attorney since 1973, Ficker’s first case went to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to end the National Football League’s blackout of sold-out home football games. He was disbarred from practicing law earlier this year by the state’s Attorney Grievance Commission for failing to appear for trial.

Ficker’s platform is essentially to cut Maryland’s 6-cent sales tax by 2 cents.

Werner, 62, an attorney, has run for local and state offices as a Democrat three times since 2014. He is campaigning for the first time as a Republican.

John Haughey

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John Haughey has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government, state legislatures, and growth and development. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he is a Navy veteran who fought fires at sea during three deployments aboard USS Constellation. He’s been a reporter for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida; a staff writer for Manhattan-based business trade publications.

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