Former President Donald Trump and Governor of Maryland. Larry Hogan doesn’t wait until 2024 to fight over the future of the Republican Party.
As the final months of his second term approach, Hogan is encouraging Republican Party voters to rally behind Governor Kelly Schultz, who served as his administration’s Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Commerce. However, Trump supports Dan Cox, a state lawmaker who has said President Joe Biden’s victory should not have been credible, has called former Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” and sought to impeach Hogan over his pandemic policies.
The dynamics have turned next week’s GOP primaries for governor into a proxy battle between Trump and Hogan, who offer very different visions for the party’s future as they look to the presidential election in 2024. Hogan, who has been barred from seeking re-election due to presidential term limitations, is one of the most prominent Republican critics of Trump have urged the party to steer clear of its divisive political brand. Henceforth, Trump has spent much of his post-presidency raising candidates who embrace his electoral lies.
“It is hard not to see this preliminary stage between Hogan-endorsed Kelly Schulz and Trump-backed Dan Cox in the broader context of Republican national politics,” said Millie Cromer, associate professor of political science at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.
Whoever emerges from the Republican primary will face severe hurdles in a country that presents one of the best opportunities this year for a Democrat to take back the governor’s mansion. Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in the state, but Hogan managed to win two terms by pledging to cut taxes, emphasize bipartisanship and not be afraid to challenge Trump.
A poll last month by the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Policy in Goucher, The Baltimore Banner and WYPR showed Schulze and Cox in a tight race, with Cox at 25% and Schulz at 22% — within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. Forty-four percent of Republican voters are undecided.
Also running are two other Republicans: Robin Vicker, a former state congressman who was a well-known sports reviewer, and Joe Werner, an attorney.
The winner will face the candidate who won a crowded Democratic race that includes former US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, best-selling author Wes Moore, Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot and former US Secretary of Education John King.
The competing visions of the Republican Party were evident when GOP voters cast their early votes in the primaries.
Republican Jeff Conley, 68, said he was disappointed with the party’s current trajectory and voted for Schulz as a sign of his support for Hogan.
“I’ve been a Republican my whole life, and Trump followers have hijacked the party, and I want it back,” Conley said. “I love Larry Hogan. I’d like to see him run and be president and bring a bunch of sane people with him that they can live with.”
However, Kristen Cerrone, 50, said she voted for Cox, citing his opposition to abortion as well as the unsuccessful lawsuit he filed over Hogan’s COVID-19 policies. She said Trump’s endorsement was also an important factor in her vote.
“He’s America’s first patriot. That’s exactly why I voted for him,” Cerrone said at an early polling station in Annapolis.
Democrats sought to interfere in the race to bolster Cox’s standing in the primaries, a tactic the party has used in other states this midterm season in hopes of facing an easier opponent in the general election.
The Democratic Governors Association paid more than $1 million to air an ad emphasizing Cox’s conservative credentials, calling him “very close to Trump” and asserting that he would protect the Second Amendment “at all costs.”
“The math is easy. Spend a million now and save $5 million by not having to face me in the general election,” Schulz said at a news conference with Hogan last month in front of the Maryland State Capitol to denounce the ad.
She said Republican voters were “smart” enough to realize that “the best candidate is the one who can win in November.”
Cox described the press conference as evidence of his opponent’s concern.
“I think that’s proof that we’ve won,” Cox told reporters. “The people of Maryland want change.”
Hogan has left open the possibility of running for the White House in 2024. Last weekend, he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he believes voters are tired of extremism in both parties and that there is “a growing demand for exactly what we have been done.” in Maryland for the past eight years.”
Hogan criticized Cox for organizing buses to Washington for the “Stop the Robbery” rally leading up to January 11th. 6 Mutiny in the US Capitol by a violent mob of Trump supporters. Cox said he did not go to the Capitol and left before the riots began.
In a later deleted tweet, Cox called Pence a “traitor” for refusing to keep pace with Trump’s demands not to certify the 2020 election, though he later expressed regret for using that word.
Trump offered strong support for Cox while referring to Hogan and Schulz as RINOs, or Republicans by name only, an etymological term for those deemed insufficiently loyal to the former president.
“Most importantly, Dan will end Larry Hogan’s terrible reign at Renault by defeating his successor, Never Trump, another low-powered Renault, Kelly Schultz,” Trump said in a statement on Tuesday.
Hogan has expressed doubts about whether this year’s gubernatorial primaries reflect a proxy battle between him and the former president.
“It’s about two different candidates, two different philosophies,” Hogan said after casting Schulz’s vote last week.
Hogan said Schultz was the only Republican candidate able to build on his accomplishments and drive the Democrat out of the governor’s palace.
“Other candidates in the Republican primary have absolutely no chance of running in a competitive race,” he said.