Donald Trump-backed state legislator Dan Cox has won the Republican nomination for governor, defeating Kelly Schulz, a former state official who was endorsed by current Governor Larry Hogan – a Trump critic.
Hogan, a moderate Republican, won two gubernatorial terms in Maryland, a Democratic-leaning state that favoured President Joe Biden over Trump by more than 33 percentage points in the 2020 elections.
Many commentators predicted that Cox’s nomination on Tuesday will be a blow to Republicans’ hopes of retaining the governorship in Maryland because of his far-right views, including backing Trump’s false election fraud allegations.
In fact, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) may have helped Cox defeat Schulz by running ads during the primary season portraying him as a right-wing Trump loyalist. Several US media outlets reported that the DGA spent more than $1m on such ads.
“Basically, you give an assist to the candidate you want to run against by attacking them as being too conservative or too Trumpy – and, in doing so, you raise their profile and increase their appeal to the GOP MAGA base,” the Politico Playbook newsletter said in Tuesday’s edition, co-authored by Ryan Lizza and Eugene Daniels.
The DGA was quick to release an advertisement on Wednesday, calling Cox “too extreme for Maryland”.
Cox has been enthusiastically backing the unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen. According to media reports, he organised buses to the January 6, 2021 Trump rally in Washington, DC, that took place before the attack on the Capitol. He also called then-Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” in a now-deleted tweet for refusing to unconstitutionally overturn the elections while presiding over the electoral vote count.
Cox’s victory comes as the congressional committee investigating the January 6 riots presents its findings in a series of public hearings that have focused on Trump’s role in driving the violence that day. Hundreds of Trump supporters had stormed the US Capitol building to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory.
Cox is the latest Trump-backed election denier to win a competitive Republican primary after similar victories for the former president’s allies across the country.
It is also a setback for Hogan’s brand of traditional conservatism. The Maryland governor previously called Cox a “Q-Anon conspiracy theorist who says crazy things every day”.
Late on Tuesday, before Cox was projected to be the winner, Trump hit out at Hogan, calling him a RINO – Republican in name only.
“RINO Larry Hogan’s Endorsement doesn’t seem to be working out so well for his heavily favoured candidate. Next, I’d love to see Larry run for President!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social online platform.
Both Trump and Hogan are potential presidential candidates for 2024, but neither has announced official plans to run.
Cox will likely face best selling author Wes Moore or former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez in November. As of Wednesday afternoon, Moore had an early lead over Perez, but the race has not been called yet.