2022 midterms

Dan Cox’s Win Brings Maryland GOP Back to the MAGA Movement

The un-Hogan will now lead the Maryland GOP ticket. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

In a reprise of a dynamic we’ve seen repeatedly in the 2022 midterm primaries, the Maryland Republican gubernatorial primary was easily won by a candidate endorsed by Donald Trump and backed principally by ads from a Democratic group “attacking” his right-wing credentials in a way likely to please GOP primary voters. And so, in a heavily Democratic state where moderate, un-Trumpy, and even pro-choice Republican Larry Hogan has been governor for eight years (he is now term-limited), his party has nominated state delegate Dan Cox to … well, not to succeed Hogan, because he is very likely to get waxed in November, but to reclaim the Maryland GOP for the MAGA right.

Cox is very unlike Hogan, as the Democratic Governors Association spent over a million dollars to explain.

Cox is a 2020 election denier who was at Trump’s pre-insurrection rally on January 6, 2021. He vocally attacked Hogan’s COVID-19 policies as too restrictive and even filed an article of impeachment against him. And he’s a hard-core opponent of legalized abortion. His primary opponent, state commerce secretary Kelly Schulz, was a natural successor to Hogan. But Cox won handily, and it’s unclear whether Trump’s backing or the DGA ads were a bigger factor. Democrats used similar tactics to help nominate Trump favorites in gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania (Doug Mastriano) and in Illinois (Darren Bailey), though they failed in Colorado, perhaps giving the Republican nominees for governor and the U.S. Senate there a reinforcement of centrist credentials.

It’s unclear who will face Cox in November. Thanks to an archaic state law prohibiting the state from opening or counting mail ballots prior to the Thursday after an election, close races won’t be resolved until at least July 21. (Hogan recently vetoed an election-reform bill that would have fixed the problem on grounds that it had insufficient ballot-security provisions.) At present, best-selling author and former Robin Hood Foundation executive Wes Moore has a solid lead over former U.S. secretary of Labor and DNC chairman Tom Perez and long-time state comptroller Peter Franchot for the nomination. Any of these candidates will likely trounce Cox; there’s no way to know whether Schulz might have done better, though she might have had a chance given a likely pro-Republican midterm wave.

So even in a state whose deep-blue complexion led Republicans to accept in Hogan a statewide candidate of heterodox views — much as they did in Charlie Baker’s Massachusetts and Phil Scott’s Vermont — GOP voters have now decided to rejoin the national party and the MAGA movement. They did so with an assist from the hated opposition party, whose leaders probably consider Dan Cox an investment that will pay off soundly in November.

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Dan Cox’s Win Brings Maryland GOP Back to the MAGA Movement