Maryland GOP nominates far-right election denier for governor, possibly costing them race

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Gov. Larry Hogan said he would not vote for his own party's nominee, Dan Cox, who helped send people to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Republicans likely squandered an opportunity to hold on to the Maryland governor's mansion, political analysts said Wednesday, after the GOP nominated a far-right election denier for the state's November gubernatorial election.

With 80% of the vote counted, Maryland Del. Dan Cox — a Donald Trump-endorsed state legislator who chartered three busloads of people to attend the rally that preceded the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — is currently projected to win the Republican nomination for governor by at least a 16-point margin, according to the New York Times.

Cox defeated Kelly Schulz, the state's former commerce secretary, for the chance to try to succeed Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who is term-limited.

Election forecasters and experts believed Schulz — who was Hogan's pick in the race — could have made the race in an otherwise Democrat-heavy state competitive for Republicans in the fall.

However, experts say that Cox — who falsely believes the 2020 election was stolen, called former Vice President Mike Pence a "traitor" for not blocking the certification of President Joe Biden's victory, has ties to the QAnon movement that the FBI deems a domestic terror threat, and opposed coronavirus mitigation efforts — will make the governor's mansion near impossible for Republicans to hold in November.

"Cox was endorsed by Trump and bused people to the Jan. 6 riot,"  Nathaniel Rakich, a senior elections analyst for the website FiveThirtyEight, tweeted after the Associated Press called the race for Cox. "The GOP might've had a shot with Kelly [Schulz], but now #MDgov should be a slam-dunk Democratic gain."

Jessica Taylor, a political analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report group, also said she believes Cox's win solidifies the general election as a likely Democratic win.

"It didn't have to be this way," Taylor tweeted, adding that the race "could have been competitive" if Schulz had won. Ultimately, Taylor said, "Trump putting retribution over sound political strategy cost" Republicans the race.

Even Republicans are not supportive of their party's candidate. A spokesperson for Hogan — who won election as governor twice, despite the fact that Democrats carry Maryland by wide margins in presidential elections — told reporters on Wednesday that he would not vote for his own party's nominee in November. (Cox unsuccessfully led an attempt to impeach Hogan in February over Hogan's COVID-19 mitigation policies.)

Meanwhile, Doug Mayer, a top aide to Schulz's campaign, described Cox's win as a "ritualized mass suicide" by Maryland Republicans.

"The only thing that was missing was Jim Jones and a cup of Kool-Aid," Mayer told the Times.

This is the latest race where a Trump-backed candidate has won the GOP gubernatorial nomination, despite the fact that the party operatives and officials feared they are the weaker candidate or would not be able to win in a general election against the Democratic nominee.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who also bused Trump supporters to the Jan. 6 insurrection and was even on the restricted Capitol grounds during the violent riots, won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Pennsylvania. And Darren Bailey, another election denier, won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Illinois.

The Cook Political Report now rates the Maryland governor's race a "solid Democratic" contest.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.