Baltimore Sun

Some running in primary counting on ‘Trump effect’

Analysts predict former president will have sizable influence on state’s GOP races

- By Jeff Barker

Maryland state attorney general candidate Michael Anthony Peroutka recently received an email from a voter seeking informatio­n.

“He said, ‘I have just one question. Do you support [Donald] Trump?’ And my answer was ‘Yes, and here’s why,’ ” said Peroutka, a Republican who says he embraces the Republican former president’s “America First” agenda.

Pat McDonough, a Republican candidate for Baltimore County executive, didn’t wait for voters to ask what he thought about the 45th president.

McDonough, a former state delegate and longtime Trump enthusiast, routinely hands out literature displaying photos of a smiling Trump alongside images of himself and others.

“Trump is very popular,” he said. Analysts predict Trump will have a sizable influence on GOP races in Tuesday’s Maryland primary. While there are always single-issue voters, this election includes voters — like the one who emailed Peroutka — who might be called single-candidate voters.

That single candidate is Trump, who was impeached twice in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House and lost the 2020 presidenti­al election, but whose brand remains popular enough that many GOP voters still swear by him.

“I think the Trump effect is significan­t,” said Roger E. Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs.

The election features a number of Republican­s for various offices eager to associate themselves with Trump in some way. State Del. Dan Cox, who is seeking the Republican gubernator­ial nomination, is the only Maryland candidate known to have actually received Trump’s endorsemen­t.

The idea is to attract voters like Thomas Beegan, 64, of Middle River, who said he heard in a news report this year that Cox had been endorsed by Trump.

“It caught my attention. That was my reason for picking Dan Cox,” said Beegan, who works at a glass replacemen­t company.

He said some of his colleagues also planned to vote for Cox because of Trump.

Trump is particular­ly influentia­l in Republican primaries, said Todd Eberly, a political-science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“The people who turn out in primaries are the most passionate and committed, and that would help the Trumpists,” Eberly said.

But there is risk for Trump loyalists who win Tuesday’s primary and then would face a general election open to all voters in a state where Trump got just 32% percent of Maryland’s vote against Democrat Joe Biden in 2020. Democrats hold a 2-1 voter registrati­on advantage in the state.

“It’s hard for me to even think of a competitiv­e race in Maryland where Trump’s support is anything other than a hindrance,” Eberly said of the general election.

political candidate Wes Moore, who has a progressiv­e lean.

Though Maryland’s legislatur­e, comptrolle­r and attorney general have characteri­stically leaned Democratic, Republican­s have won three of the last five gubernator­ial races, counting Hogan twice and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich in 2002. But the state’s GOP seems split now between a Trump-endorsed of Del. Dan Cox or Hogan-endorsed Kelly M. Schulz.

Is Maryland ready to put a Democrat back in the governor’s mansion, or will the variety of candidate choices fracture the party’s palate when the general election rolls around? Only time will tell.

Can Larry Hogan’s popularity rub off on his hand-picked successor?

Four years after Hogan made an unlikely return as the first Republican reelected to the governor’s office in six decades, can his brand of old-school conservati­sm still win the day?

Hogan has thrown his political capital behind Schulz, a former delegate he twice elevated to cabinet-level positions — and he remains popular among both Republican­s and Democrats.

Whether Schulz can capture that popularity remains an open question.

Both parties will be waiting to see how Maryland Republican­s split their votes between Schulz — representi­ng what some are calling a third Hogan term — and Cox, representi­ng the Trump wing of the party.

The results could influence not just the next few years of Maryland Republican politics, but whether

Hogan ultimately challenges Trump for the party’s presidenti­al nomination in two years.

Will Marilyn Mosby remain the Baltimore state’s attorney or will her political career sunset as she prepares for trial?

While she has strong pockets of support, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby faces a battle Tuesday to maintain her office.

Mosby was indicted by a federal grand jury in January and charged with two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements on loan applicatio­ns to purchase properties in Florida. Her federal trial, originally scheduled to occur ahead of the primary election, is set for Sept. 19. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Mosby appears to have ruffled at least parts of her electorate, too, facing harsh criticism as she prepares to prosecute Keith Davis Jr. in a homicide case for the fifth time.

In a rare move, a judge found a “presumptio­n of vindictive­ness” based on Mosby’s decision to charge Davis with attempted murder after he won a new trial in the unrelated murder case. Defense attorneys for Davis also allege Mosby twice violated a gag order prohibitin­g her from speaking publicly about the case. She will address those allegation­s before a judge in August.

Mosby has been a lightning rod. But has her image suffered enough to cost her career, or will her opponents, defense lawyer Ivan Bates and former Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah, again split the votes against her as they did in 2018.

Vignarajah, endorsed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, has been battling his own negative publicity after allegation­s of abuse and harassment toward staff at the State’s Attorney and Attorney General’s offices surfaced this summer.

Who will be running against Congressma­n Andy Harris?

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Trump Republican who discussed derailing 2020’s presidenti­al election results, is running unconteste­d in the primary race. But Maryland’s lone Republican congressma­n will face off against two competitor­s in November.

Libertaria­n candidate Daniel Frank Thibeault will appear alongside Harris on the general election ballot. It’s up to District 1 Democrats to decide Tuesday whether they’ll be joined by former state Del. Heather Mizeur or former Foreign Service Officer R. David Harden.

Mizeur, who lives in Kent County, was a two-term representa­tive of Montgomery County in the Maryland House of Delegates, served as a legislativ­e assistant for multiple members of Congress, was a Takoma Park City Council member and campaigned to be the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014. She lost to Congressma­n Anthony Brown, who served as lieutenant governor during former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s second term.

Brown, who lost the State House to Hogan in 2014, is running against former Baltimore City District Court judge Katie Curran O’Malley — his former running mate’s wife — to be be the Democratic candidate for state attorney general.

Mizeur’s campaign priorities revolve around bolstering the economic stability of the Eastern Shore and Baltimore and Harford Counties, farmer-friendly climate policy and expanding affordable access to health care.

Harden is a Senate-confirmed, Obama-era nominee to the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitari­an Assistance at the U.S. Agency for Internatio­nal Developmen­t, and received the Presidenti­al Award for Distinguis­hed Service under the Trump administra­tion.

Harden’s platform is rooted in job creation and economic growth, expanded access to health care, bay conservati­on and bipartisan immigratio­n reform, among other issues.

How many — and which kinds — of voters will turn out Tuesday?

Political observers are on the edge of their seats over whether even a quarter of Maryland voters will cast ballots in a delayed primary that comes while many voters have paid little attention to the races and are on vacation.

Eight days of early voting ended last week with fewer voters turning out than in 2018 — about 182,000 compared to 222,000.

But another 500,000 voters had requested ballots by mail and 165,000 of them already had returned them by week’s end. With those ballots not able to even start being counted until Thursday, the types of voters who turn out in-person versus by mail also could influence how the votes change as the counting drags on.

For instance, some observers say Cox’s supporters — aggrieved by false perception­s of mail-in ballot fraud — could come out in stronger numbers on Tuesday, giving him a leg up in the results that are initially reported. But Schulz’s supporters may trust mail-in voting more, meaning her her vote total would grow through days of counting. In a neck-and-neck race, those late ballots could make all the difference.

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