Democrats face off in Maryland primary – in ‘insanely Republican year’
Above the Democratic primary, a political environment likely benefits Republicans – magnified by the GOP victory in neighboring Virginia last month. One of the Democratic candidates told POLITICO he believes 2022 may be the most difficult election for his party in half a century.
The list of candidates includes King, who is Afro-Latino; former Prince George County executive Rushern Baker and author Wes Moore, both black; former DNC president Tom Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic; and former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, who is of Indian descent.
Among the white candidates are longtime state comptroller Peter Franchot and former state attorney general Doug Gansler.
The state’s demographics are a key factor: Maryland is one of the most racially diverse states in the country, and whites make up only about 4 in 10 voters in the Democratic primary.
According to the Census Bureau’s Diversity Index – a formula that measures the likelihood that two randomly selected people belong to different ethnic or racial groups – Maryland recorded the largest gain of any state in the United States since 2010 .
Moore, the only Democratic candidate to live in Baltimore, believes the party should address the “historic” nature of his field.
“I haven’t forgotten that we have only had two African Americans elected as governors in the history of this country,” Moore said.
“The reason people are so excited about the historic fashion of this is… there is hope that [Maryland] can cross that hurdle is something people think is real in our campaign, ”said Moore, a first-time political candidate and former CEO of anti-poverty organization Robin Hood, who has also garnered the support of several. local and state legislators. as two former Presidents of the State Party.
Staff members and state candidates warn the race is still in its infancy. No candidate has yet launched a television commercial for the late June primary, and candidates can only apply to officially go to the polls in mid-February. Agents say the January 20 campaign finance report deadline is an initial barometer of candidates’ seriousness.
Party leaders across the state are projecting optimism despite the crowded field, with no clear favorites at this early stage. “I think it really helps the party because it brings a variety of perspectives,” said Yvette Lewis, president of the state Democratic Party. “It shows who we are as Democrats.”
Yet recent history has also not favored Maryland’s Democratic candidates for governor. After Martin O’Malley won back-to-back terms in 2006 and 2010, Democrats lost the following gubernatorial elections to Hogan.
He beat former NAACP CEO Ben Jealous in 2018, in a year that was otherwise a wave year for Democrats nationwide. Four years earlier, Hogan shocked pundits by toppling Democrat Anthony Brown, who was O’Malley’s lieutenant governor and considered the frontrunner to be the state’s first black governor.
“In 2014, we were emerging from an eight-year streak of near-annual tax increases,” said Brown, who is now a member of Congress and running for the state attorney general in 2022.
While he believes it was the right approach in the years immediately following the Great Recession, Brown says a tax-weary electorate took his chances with Hogan, who introduced himself as a man of Republican business that would cut taxes.
“So a personal narrative will be important in 2022. But we’ll also need to make sure we speak directly to the issues the Marylanders are focused on,” Brown said. “And that means talking about wallet issues.”
Two Democratic candidates who have failed in previous gubernatorial nominations say they have learned from past races as well.
Gansler, the former state attorney general who runs the more moderate route from primary to governor, said Democrats’ recent losses in the state – coupled with a difficult political climate expected for the nationwide party – are the reason why the party should nominate a candidate better positioned to win the general election.
“We have the most democratic state in the country… but we’ve lost three of the last five elections,” said Gansler, who also finished second in the 2014 primaries. “Looking forward to next year, we’re watching the headwinds of what appears to be the biggest Republican year in 50 years. “
“The idea that someone … who could come out of the Democratic primary who has never held a political office and then try to take on the Hogan machine in an incredibly Republican year is myopic,” a- he declared.
Baker, who finished second in the Democratic primary in 2018, also relies on his tenure in government as a selling point of this round. He ticked off three themes he is building his campaign around: healthcare, crime and education.
Asked about his loss to Jealous in the 2018 primary, Baker said his campaign was too focused on his homeport in predominantly black Prince George County, to the detriment of voters in and around Baltimore City, who have not had the chance to know him. Of Maryland’s 24 counties, Baker only carried Prince George and neighboring Calvert, and was blown to other parts of the state.
“I tried to do a race where everyone told me – I was in the lead at the time – and everyone said, ‘Here’s what you’re doing: play safe.’ And that’s a mistake, ”Baker said.
And Franchot, financial director of the State since 2007, also relies on his campaign experience. “The path to victory is that I have a base and have four statewide elections under my belt,” he said. “The rest of the peloton is fractured by some very impressive, well-funded people, but the path to victory is pretty clear.”
He too came out as a strong candidate in the general election and said he had “no regrets, no doubts at all” about his failure to support the 2018 race – where he refused to support Jealous. against Hogan, whom he congratulated. – and any potential backlash this year.
For his part, King looks at his bailiwick: education. To bolster his liberal good faith, President Barack Obama’s last Education Secretary this month launched a digital ad challenging national Republicans’ characterizations that critical race theory is fanatic and racist.
The framework of the theory, developed by black jurists in the 1970s, is based on the idea that race and racism have been ingrained in American institutions since slavery and Jim Crow. It became a hot topic in recent elections, as some Republican-backed state houses sought to ban its teaching in schools, even in jurisdictions where it is not part of the school curriculum.
“Some far-right politicians want to erase my history,” said King in the ad, which can trace his family line back to slavery in Gaithersburg in now suburban Montgomery County.
Perez – the former DNC chairman who also served as federal and state labor secretary and recently gained approval from House Speaker and Baltimore native Nancy Pelosi – said he plans to build on on unions for their support.
“I’m proud of the support I’ve had in the job,” Perez said, citing the role of public and private sector unions in helping New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy secure a second term in the month. last, even as the Democrats lost Virginia. .
The race also includes two other nominees: nonprofit executive Jon Baron; and Jerome Segal, who tried unsuccessfully to become the first Democratic Senator Ben Cardin in 2018, both white.
Maryland’s demographic changes could be a boon to Democrats as we approach 2022. The state has seen its Asian and Hispanic populations increase, while the white population has fallen to 47% in 2020, from 55% a decade higher. early.
Black residents still constitute the largest minority population, but their 29% of the state’s population remains unchanged from the 2010 census.
For Republicans in Maryland looking to retain control of the governor’s mansion, maintaining the state’s black population could be seen as a positive.
Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College, which conducts polls in the state, says Hogan was successful in attracting around 30% of black voters in 2018.
But it’s not clear that his brand of moderate republicanism is transferable to other candidates.
“There has been no evidence of the existence of a Hogan coat in the state,” Kromer said. “So that leads to the discussion as to whether Hogan is a single entity and whether this type of brand can be picked up.”
Republican Kelly Schulz, Secretary of State for Commerce, could make history by becoming the first woman to serve as governor of Maryland.
She faces the Del State. Daniel Cox, who has the backing of former President Donald Trump. Schulz dodged questions about Trump’s endorsement and its effect on the race, while stressing Hogan’s support for his candidacy. She presented her candidacy as a continuation of the tenure of the outgoing popular governor.
“My campaign is the only one that’s going to continue to move Maryland in the direction the Marylanders are very, very comfortable with right now.”